Coaching excellence in full force at Coach Summit 2020

Wed 29 Jan 2020

F.J. West Films - Felicity West Photo

Maximising opportunity and collaboration were in full force at the fifth annual BaseballSoftballUK Coach Summit, held on Saturday 25 January at the Kents Hill Park Training and Conference Centre in Milton Keynes.

With the theme focused on taking baseball and softball to the next level across participation and talent levels, the Summit balanced keynote presentations with classroom workshops and practical gym-based sessions, delivered by international experts from North America and Europe.

The Summit welcomed around 70 delegates from all corners of the UK and the Republic of Ireland representing baseball, slowpitch and fastpitch softball, including representatives from GB Baseball, Baseball Ireland, Bristol Baseball Club, Herts Baseball Club, Liverpool Trojans Baseball Club, Newcastle Nighthawks and the University of Nottingham to name but a few.

The day was rounded off with the annual British Baseball and Softball Coaching Awards ceremony which recognised the very best of British coaching and volunteering, with the efforts of seven winners and multiple nominees being celebrated.

Sunday 26 January saw the guest speakers roll up their sleeves and join BSUK Academy and High Performance Academy coaching staff put around 20 young athletes through their paces at the Radcliffe School in Wolverton.


On Saturday morning, Chris Rawlings, BaseballSoftballUK’s Head of Development, officially opened the Summit, welcoming delegates and partners, including strategic schools delivery agency Premier Education. Special recognition was given to ISG Baseball‘s Jim Jones and President Tom O’Connell, the latter whom was the recipient of the 2020 ABCA/Wilson Lefty Gomez Award for his significant contribution towards growing baseball in the United States and abroad. 

The first speaker was Craig Montvidas, who also presented at the inaugural Summit in 2016! Craig drew on his considerable experience as ESCA Camp Director, Head Coach of European Fastpitch Softball champions, Specchiasol Bussolengo, in the Italian Softball League, and as former Head Coach of the Netherlands, Greek and British Women National Softball Teams and NPF Coach.

“If you can’t catch and can’t throw, play volleyball,” was the challenge laid down by Craig in his opening remarks, followed by a request for delegates to swap their shoes to the other foot, and therefore their comfort zone, whilst he went on to highlight the importance of seizing playing opportunities. Craig also covered the ‘four principals of luck’ to gain tactical advantages and how to create ‘run production’ versus ‘run prevention’ in his hour-long keynote. 

Baseball Canada's André Lachance followed Craig’s session. Calling on his multi-sport, corporate and university lecturing experience across the globe, as well as work leading the Canadian Women’s National Baseball Team to #2 in the world, André presented on ‘Do or Die in UK Baseball.’

The focus of the session was on the paradigm shifts needed to deliver physical literacy and end-to-end athlete development from ‘sensitive periods of trainability’ to Generation Z. Celebrating mistakes, mimicking children’s learning styles, adapting teaching to address eroded attention spans and the four building blocks of physical, technical, tactical and mental training were all discussed.

Videos of both keynote speeches will be shared with delegates shortly.

Craig and André, along with Jim Jones, then went on to deliver insightful workshops and gym-based sessions with delegates able to wander freely between both, learning more about tactical, coaching and practical principles first-hand.

Back in the main lecture room, delegates were treated to another session with senior GB National Team staff, Liam Carroll for baseball, and Rachael Watkeys for softball. Liam then introduced incoming GB Baseball Pitching & Coordinator, Will Lintern, who brought delegates to their knees in a practical demonstration. Conversely, Rachael participated in an emotional Q&A with Chris Rawlings recounting the highs and lows of GB Softball’s Summer 2019 Olympic qualification journey.

Delegate reactions of the day included Claire Read who said, “I feel very inspired and can’t wait to put it into practice with our teams back at the London Softball and Advertising Leagues.” Fellow delegate Whitney Hollis, also from the London Softball League, added, “I appreciated the experience of learning from other coaches which has affirmed my coaching skills."

Chris Ward, Head Coach at Guildford Baseball and Softball Club, summed it up best though, stating, “This is the best day on the coaching calendar in the UK and the most important initiative BSUK does for coaching. The Summit enables coaches to nurture their growth mindset in turn helping the sport grow.”

British Baseball and Softball Coaching Awards

The day was rounded off with the fifth annual British Baseball & Softball Coaching Awards, celebrating the very best coaches and volunteers in baseball and softball in the UK.

Chris Rawlings opened the event with a lively Q&A with Jim Jones, Craig Montvidas and André Lachance recounting their coaching journeys, philosophies, regrets and impact.

The international experts then helped distribute six awards to the worthy recipients, all nominated by the baseball/softball community, with the winners receiving plaques and £25 vouchers from Baseball Outlet, BaseballSoftballUK’s new Official Wearable Kit Supplier

On receiving the co-Softball Adult Coach of the Year award, Rachael Watkeys, Head Coach of GB Women’s National Softball Team, said, “It’s an honour to have been nominated. The other two nominated coaches do a phenomenal amount of work in British softball all the time. The job I have to do is really different and I’m blessed to be able to do it with a really good coaching staff. It’s not about me, it’s about the effort that we all put in. This year, GB Softball had a very good year so it’s nice for the team’s effort to be recognised. All I do is try and put all the pieces together, other coaches have a much harder job than I do all year around.”

Read the full British Baseball and Softball Coaching Awards report and reaction here.

All photos by F.J. West Films - Felicity West Photo

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