Candidates shortlisted for 2019 BSUK Coach Awards

Wed 19 Dec 2018

A large number of nominations have been received for BaseballSoftballUK’s 2019 Coach Awards, and three people have now been shortlisted in each of the seven categories.

The winners will be decided by a panel consisting of BaseballSoftballUK Head of Development Chris Rawlings and Development Managers Liz Knight and Johanna Malisani, and the awards will be presented at a ceremony on the evening of Saturday 26 January 2019, followed BSUK’s fourth annual Coach Summit in Milton Keynes.

Here are the shortlisted nominees:

Young Coach of the Year

This award is for the coach aged 22 or younger deemed to have made the biggest contribution to coaching, managing and supporting baseball and/or softball in Britain in 2018.

Dan Patterson:
Dan founded the Reading Knights University Softball Club single-handedly in November 2016 and has worked tirelessly to help it grow.  From 14 members in the first year, the club now has over 40 players and was voted the 'Most Improved Club’ at the Reading University Sports Awards 2018, thanks to Dan's hard work and commitment and the two excellent training sessions he runs per week as a qualified BSUK coach and a current GB Development squad player.  His enthusiasm for the sport is contagious and this has allowed a fantastic softball community to grow within the university that promotes both enjoyment and self-improvement. 

Jessica Vernon:
Jessica Vernon has been playing softball (slowpitch and fastpitch) for only a short time, but she quickly demonstrated a desire to use her experience as a coach and for the past two seasons has assisted with practices for the adult softball teams at Bracknell Baseball and Softball Club.  She has challenged herself as a player, including in the Great Britain Fastpitch League, and has learned a lot as a coach by signing up to the Softball High Performance Academy and playing as much as she can.  In 2018, Jess successfully re-established a youth programme at the club, captained various Bracknell teams during the year and is organising a trip for a co-ed slowpitch team to the Slava Hosana Tournament in the Czech Republic in April 2019.

Sian Wigington
In 2018, Sian once again captained and coached The Mix in the Great Britain Fastpitch League and took the team to the 2018 Women’s European Cup in Italy, taking the lead in planning and organising for the event.  In addition, Sian coached at several curriculum sessions and after-school clubs at schools in the
Slough area.  Sian’s rapport with these young athletes is beyond her years: she connects with the kids and breaks down the skill and instruction into appropriate nuggets of information that engages the athletes in a fun environment.


Baseball Youth Coach of the Year

This award is for an outstanding contribution to coaching young people in baseball in Britain in 2018.

John Ferlazzo:
John began his baseball coaching career in the USA but has been heavily involved with the London Mets Baseball Club since 2015 and is now head of the Mets’ youth programme and a London Mets Board member, with responsibility for all safeguarding issues at the club as well as oversight of the club’s Finsbury Park ground.  John is a popular coach, respected for his dedication, approachable manner and organisational skills and for his ability to balance short-term goals with the long-term bigger picture for his club and players.

Will Lintern:
Will is Head Coach of the GB Under-18 National Baseball Team, lead organiser at Academy Baseball and a coach at the Baseball High Performance Academy.  He is an outstanding hands-on coach with a great ability to relate to his players and he is also a great mentor for up-and-coming coaches.  Will grew up in the British baseball community and still gives so much back to the game, even though he no longer works as a National Development Manager for BaseballSoftballUK, a role he carried out with distinction through March 2017.

Jessica Vernon:
In the summer of 2018, Bracknell Baseball and Softball Club set out to establish a junior section as a part of BaseballSoftballUK’s Junior Club Development Programme initiative.  Jess began by going into a local school and running sessions and followed up by running evening youth baseball sessions back at the club.  The uptake and interest in the youth baseball sessions grew -- so much so that there was demand to continue beyond the scheduled number of sessions.  Jess’s rapport with the athletes was a key piece in the success of the programme, as she delivered engaging and fun sessions while providing an athlete-centered approach to learning; this has helped to has created a fantastic junior club at Bracknell.  During the year, Jess also demonstrated a high level of commitment to her own personal development as a baseball coach.


Softball Youth Coach of the Year

This award is for an outstanding contribution to coaching young people in softball in Britain in 2018.

Warren Furst:
In addition to serving as the Softball Commissioner at LondonSports, Warren also coaches a youth softball team, where he is often one of the first to arrive and the last to leave.  Warren was instrumental in modifying some of the league rules this year to ensure more equal participation by players, and everything thing he does as a coach is working towards long-term success for the players and the programme.  Warren is one of the reasons that LondonSports is able to offer such a comprehensive and successful sports programme for children of all age.

Alexis Markham-Hill:
Lexy is involved in coaching youth softball in a range of programmes.  She regularly volunteers her time with BaseballSoftballUK’s Academy and HPA and as a selector for GB Fastpitch age-group teams and she coaches the Free Agents in the Great Britain Fastpitch League, often travelling two hours or more to get to a coaching session.  Professionally, Lexy has a Masters degree in Art Psychotherapy, with substantial experience in supporting children, adolescents and adults with practical, educational, social, emotional, and psychological difficulties. This makes Lexy a very valuable addition to any coaching staff: her ability to connect with, challenge and respond to athletes with varying needs is outstanding.

Jodie Rushin, Nadya Pavlova and Elysee Laporte:
Jodie, Nadya and Elysee have worked together as part of the staff for the GB Under-13 Girls’ Fastpitch Softball Team for the past five years.  They work well as a team, getting the best out of their players by organising drills and training sessions to make sure the girls feel they are doing their best and always developing their strengths while dealing with weaknesses in a positive manner.  They know how to make the girls laugh and how to deal with situations both on and off the pitch, and have a good rapport with all the girls they have coached.  The steady improvement in the team’s results over the past few years is a testament to their work.


Baseball Adult Coach of the Year

This award is for an outstanding contribution to adult baseball coaching in Britain in 2019.

Darrel Barsby:
The South Coast Pirates have gone from a few friends throwing a ball around in the park to a community-based club of over 30 people playing adult baseball that will be entering the BBF leagues in 2019.  Darrel has been instrumental in this, organising the majority of the club’s off-the-pitch progress as well as turning up to every training session and helping players both experienced and new.  Darrell is a brilliant and attentive coach, and as the 'key holder' to the training facility, he also runs sessions if people want extra practice at the expense of his own free time.  His commitment to helping everyone at the club has been tremendous and his natural teacher instincts shine through!

Ian Blease:
Ian has been the Head Coach for the Liverpool Trojans Baseball Club for a number of years, and in 2018 he worked his magic again as the Trojans took another title, winning the AAA British Baseball League Championship in a final game against the Nottingham Rebels.  Ian has recently been involved as a coach in junior baseball and softball sessions run by BSUK, bringing his years of experience to the role, and the kids have really responded to his coaching manner.  Ian now plans to pass on the baton and let someone else take on the Head Coach role with the Trojans, but he will continue to play and will move to the position of General Manager for the club’s two teams.

Jose Lopez:
The Bournemouth Bears are a new adult baseball team in the BBF’s AA South Division that made it to the playoffs in their first year, and much of this is down to the enthusiasm, drive, and coaching of Jose Lopez.  Jose works with every player on the team to improve their game and sets a great atmosphere, based on working hard but having fun.  Right now, the team is doing off-season training and the sessions never end on time because everyone is enjoying themselves so much.  Jose has a wealth of coaching knowledge from his background in professional baseball, along with patience and a love of the game, and that makes him a fantastic coach.


Softball Adult Coach of the Year

This award is for an outstanding contribution to adult softball coaching in Britain in 2019.

Jennifer Edis:
Jen has consistently demonstrated a high level of coaching across a range of different participant groups over many years.  She is currently Head Coach for the Oxford Brookes Softball Club, which has two teams and regularly takes part in the South East University League and National University Softball Championship competitions.  The teams have improved significantly through Jen's strong coaching and the number of members in the club, especially women, has increased since 2014 when Jen first set up the club with help from BaseballSoftballUK.  Several of the Oxford Brookes players have now joined the Oxford Softball League, where Jen also coaches, bringing new players into the sport.

Liam Morrison:
Liam is the Development Officer for the Greater London Softball Mixed League and has led the league’s Softball 101 beginner sessions since 2014.  Liam has proved a popular and effective coach, creating a friendly environment that allows newcomers to get involved in softball without having to commit to playing in a team straightaway.  However, over the five years that Liam has led the Softball 101 sessions, six new teams have joined the league.  A player from one of these teams said, “Liam was an excellent teacher, patient with mistakes and always happy to go over anything you didn't quite get.  Alongside this, he encouraged us to gel as a team through encouraging social events where players could join in with each other.  His excellent teaching style was a great help in the formation of our team.”

Ryan Turtill:
Ryan’s aspiration for every coaching sessions he runs is to keep it safe, for everyone to learn something and for everyone to have fun.  Like Liam Morrison, he has been a constant presence during the GLSML’s Softball 101 sessions, where he brings warmth, encouragement and attention to detail to his coaching, along with emotional intelligence.  One player he has coached said, “He is incredibly patient and thoughtful with everyone he interacts with and brings a wonderful knowledge of the technical side of things.  You can see significant improvement after just a few minutes of his tips and advice.”  Another player said, “The thing that's impressive about Ryan is not just the sheer amount of time he gives up to deliver quality coaching but that he does so for both baseball and softball.  He is a unifying presence in a divided community.  We need more Ryans if we want both sports to continue to grow and prosper.”


Services to Coaching

This award is for the individual who best personifies what it means to be a baseball or softball coach over a long period of time: someone who understands their sport and can use the lessons learned on the pitch to motivate and engage others.  He or she has probably played a great number of roles, and without their services to coaching, your club, your league or perhaps even your national team wouldn’t be the same.

Margaret Borley:
Margaret Borley was the first member of the British baseball community to receive an honour from the Queen for work in the sport, being named an MBE in 2007.  Margaret founded one of the country's most successful youth organisations, the Tonbridge Bobcats Youth Baseball Club in Kent, and led the Bobcats to numerous youth championships over 30 years, helping to develop a number of future Great Britain internationals.  In 2009, she was named a life member of the British Baseball Federation, and her work was also recognised by Major League Baseball when she was asked to sign the 'Baseball Around the World' ball which included the signatures of prominent members of the baseball community from around the globe.  Will Lintern and Alex Malihoudis have written, “More than any other coach in the [British] game, Margaret managed to find the balance between offering a fun and safe sporting environment where anyone …  can come to play baseball, and yet still allowing the best players to pursue their dreams of playing baseball at the highest international level and beyond.”

Joss Thompson:
Joss has shared her knowledge and passion for the game and for life over many years and in many settings, pushing her athletes to develop, grow and improve both on the field and off.   As one of the coaches at the Towcester Tigers, she works with athletes of all ages and skill levels, quietly finding teachable moments for everyone to personalise their growth.  As a coach in the Great Britain Fastpitch League, when she isn't coaching the Oxford Diamonds, you will find her helping other coaches and teams.  As a volunteer in the Great Britain Women's Fastpitch programme, she has held many posts over the years, particularly with the Under-16 Women’s Team, creating a foundation for many athletes who have worked their way through the GB Softball programme.

Dave Wareham:
Dave has continued to welcome people from the community to the Manchester Softball League over more than 20 years of coaching and organising teams.  Everyone knows how much work he puts into coaching the 'uncoachables' and forming good new teams, and he has succeeded because of his ability to interact with potential players, his patience with new players and his ability to bring out the best in those not-so-confident players.  This year Dave was elected as Recruitment Officer for the Manchester Softball League and has been doing a great job bringing new players to teams throughout the league.  Dave is not recognised as much as he should be for his work as it has become the norm that he does what he does, but without him many of the teams in the league would not still be around and many people of both genders aged 14 to 70 would not be physically active playing softball weekly in the community. 


Volunteer of the Year

This award is for a volunteer in a non-coaching role who has given up a substantial amount of time to support their local club, team or league and who has made a significant impact on the development of our sports.

Kim Hannessen:
Kim is an accredited Exercise Physiologist who has volunteered as a sports therapist with GB Softball since 2014.  In addition to being present at numerous training sessions, trials and camps she has travelled often with the GB Women and Under-19 Women and has represented GB at four World Championships, two European Championships and the first-ever European Super 6 Tournament.  The role of the sports therapist is physically the most demanding role on a GB staff team and can involve considerable amounts of time.  This is heightened for Kim because of her playing background: prior to a game she often helps out by pitching batting practice or helping with warm-ups in between providing therapy.  Kim has also run a series of indoor conditioning sessions for London-based athletes which focused on softball-specific injury prevention and explosive power, and she has set up a very useful sponsorship arrangement between GB Softball and Physique, a company specialising in first aid and sports injury and rehab products.  In addition to her role with the GB Women’s Team, Kim has also taken on general coordination of sport therapists for many other GB National Teams, a role that includes recruitment, induction, mentoring and monitoring.

Julie Spittle:
Julie does a huge amount for the sport at various levels and in varying capacities, including as administrator, captain and youth coach for the Thames Valley Softball Club; a volunteer Under-13 Coach at Academy Softball; GB Under-13 Girls’ Fastpitch Team Manager, responsible for safeguarding, logistics, transport and general organisation of the team; Farnham Park Youth Session Coach; Disability Sports Coach; and a Coach and Activator at various schools programmes and tournaments to further grow the sport in and around Farnham Park.  Regardless of the context or age of her athletes, Julie is gentle in her approach, treating each athlete individually to find a way to connect, to engage and to teach.  Julie also challenges herself to continue to get better, by attending numerous CPD opportunities.  She loves the game and creates many opportunities for others to learn and love the sport.

Kellie Whitaker:
Kellie is a volunteer who wears many hats.  A club stalwart at Manchester Thunder, she is involved in two of their midweek teams playing in the Manchester Softball League, where she takes on the role of team organiser, player and occasionally team Mum.  She is known for going above and beyond to make sure everything is under control on game day.  She can be seen scoring, coaching, playing, recruiting new players, offering transport and arranging social events.  Kellie has also taken on a leadership role with Manchester Thunder in the National Softball League, where she has limited her playing time but provides critical supporting in coaching, scoring and general organisation.  Kellie is also the Team Manager for the GB Slowpitch programme, including both the Co-ed and Men’s Teams.  Professionally, Kellie is the Global Travel Manager for a large multi-national and is able react to any situation that arises on tour.  As the sole slowpitch representative on the GB Management Committee she brings a new and fresh perspective.  British Softball is better because of Kellie’s contributions.

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