December 2 - The first Virginia Baseball Coaches Association convention was held over the weekend in Charlottesville and received rave reviews from Northern Virginia coaches that attended.
Organized by VBCA founder and executive director Tim Merry and VBCA president Sean Ryan, the convention was headlined by two Division I head coaches - Louisiana State University’s Paul Mainieri and the University of Virginia’s Brian O’Connor - who have led their programs to College World Series championships.
O’Connor, who led the Cavaliers to 14 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, touched on leadership and recruiting and the importance of maintaining accountability and consistency. “You can’t stand in front of your players or anybody in your organization and talk about, ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to do and this is how we’re going to do it’, and then not hold people to it,” O’Connor said in a video from the convention posted on VBCA’s Twitter handle. “That falls apart and crumbles pretty quick.”
Other presenters included Wake Forest coach Tom Walter, Virginia Commonwealth coach Shawn Stiffler, Virginia Military Institute coach Jonathan Hadra, former Major League pitcher and current Miller School coach Billy Wagner, and Jeremy Sheetinger, the college division liaison for the American Baseball Coaches Association.
West Springfield coach Jason Olms sat on a panel of Virginia high school coaches coming off a state championship, and also speaking at the clinic was Jeff Petty, the new coach at Fredericksburg Christian who has built one of the country’s top travel programs, the EvoShield Canes.
“I think it’s really cool,” Merry told Charlottesville’s NBC affiliate, referring to the first of what VBCA intends to hold as an annual convention. “That’s what we’re trying to be, a resource for coaches at all levels.”
A number of area coaches attended the clinic, and here’s what some had to say:
Chris Warren, head coach, Episcopal High School: “The clinic was a resounding success. For the modest price, coaches were able to listen to great motivational speakers, clinical instructors and technical specialists. Having been to many clinics, organizers Tim Merry and Sean Ryan knocked it out of the park and really put on a first class event. To be able to hear head coaches from UVA, VCU, JMU, and VMI was a great opportunity for either a rookie or veteran coach to increase their knowledge.”
Billy Emerson, head coach, Paul VI Catholic High School: “Very well structured convention with an excellent variety of presenters. I loved the camaraderie among coaches within the commonwealth, and the quality time with some of our state’s great college coaches. Definitely one of the best coaching clinic events I’ve been to, and I’ve been going to these things for over 20 years. Everyone in Virginia should join and plan on attending.”
Micah Higgins, head coach, Highland School: “For it’s inaugural event I was extremely impressed with the event. Virginia has some great coaches at both the high school and college levels, so having them together sharing their knowledge and love for our game was special. I look forward to even bigger and better event in 2019.”
Josh Steinberg, head coach, Patriot High School: [The] clinic was a professionally-run event with a clear intention of educating coaches of all levels with cutting edge systems, drills, plans and philosophies implemented by some of the most successful college baseball programs on the east coast. I came away with pages of notes on new ideas to instill in Patriot’s program this spring. … [The clinic is a] huge resource for Virginia coaches because it gave us huge insight on how certain colleges run their program from every standpoint - training, game strategy, team practices, community involvement. This allows us as high school coaches to better prepare college-bound players for the next step after hearing about how they run things.”
Photo of VCU coach Shawn Stiffler courtesy of VBCA