A Coach’s Journey: An interview with Karen Bidwell

A Coach’s Journey: An interview with Karen Bidwell

Karen Bidwell
Head Softball Coach,
Susquehanna Valley High School
Conklin, NY
16U and 18U Club Coach
25 years of coaching

What’s the best thing about being a coach?
The best thing about coaching for me is being able to coach with my husband! Since 1999, I have been so lucky to have had an amazing coach by my side, throughout it all! My husband, Ken, and I are co-head coaches on the club teams, and although I am technically the head coach of our high school team, Ken is way more than an assistant. He is an invaluable asset and as much a coach as I am. My successes are certainly his as well.

Who is your biggest motivator or influence?
My husband, Ken, has actually been my biggest motivator. He is a fantastic coach who relates to his players. He is knowledgeable, fair, caring, dedicated, and puts his heart and soul into coaching. He is everything I believe a coach should be.

Ralph and Karen Weekly hold a special place in my softball heart. As another husband and wife coaching duo, they are my idols and role models. Also, Carol Hutchins and Scott Whitlock are always so inspiring. We love to hear them speak and when we do, we learn so much and come away excited and motivated to start our season.

How did you get your start in coaching?
I knew I wanted to coach about five minutes after I got roped into my first coaching position back in 1989. I was “volunteered” to coach my son’s youth soccer team. And while I loved the coaching aspect, the sport was definitely not my passion. But, I kept going and went on to coach his t-ball and basketball teams.

I got my start in softball in 1993 when I coached my daughter’s 12U team. At the same time, I had gone back to college to get a degree in Physical Education. While I got my first high school coaching job later that year – it was in cheerleading. It wasn’t until 1999 when I finally landed a high school softball coaching position.

What do you see as your best coaching memory?
There are so many great moments in coaching. My high school highlights would include winning the NYSPHSAA Championship in 2007 and being named NYS Coach of the Year and then becoming Championship Runners Up in 2018, after losing the final game 2-1.

In club ball, we won tied the Triple Crown 18U East Coast Nationals in Myrtle Beach in 2015 with rain preventing a final game. And I’ll never forget in 2013, coming back from an 0-3 Saturday to win five games back-to-back with one pitcher on Sunday, to win the Tournament Championship.

But, it’s not the wins that make the memories. It’s the opportunity to coach some absolutely awesome young ladies who are not just dedicated and talented, but truly amazing people.

What was your biggest coaching disaster?
In our first year coaching a club team, we didn’t take into account the importance of team bonding and team play. We chose very talented individuals for the team, but they were just that – individuals. A team with that much talent should have been winning game after game, but we couldn’t get out of our own way. We had cliques and “mean girls” and sadly, some of the parents were just as bad as the girls.

The experience was so unpleasant that it was almost our first and last year of coaching travel ball. Fortunately, we sat down with a seasoned travel coach who gave us some great advice. We reassessed how we chose players (and parents!) the following year and it made a tremendous difference. Here we are, 16 years later, still loving it!

What is your coaching philosophy?
When our athletes leave, we want them to say their time with us was a positive, rewarding experience. We want them to not only grow and develop their skills as an athlete, but also as responsible, caring citizens and leaders. We want them to learn. To laugh. To love.

Our hope is that our athletes feel a love of the sport, as well as to feel our care and love for them as players and individuals.

How did you nail your team culture?
We learned long ago that team culture is important, but found it difficult to implement some of the things we do with our club team into our high school team. After tryouts, our club team has almost nine months together before we start playing tournaments, as opposed to high school where we have just a couple weeks to teach and practice together before three to five games a week are shoved into a three-month season.

The most significant change in our coaching culture came after listening to University of Michigan’s head coach, Carol Hutchins, a few years ago at Be the Best. Her speech on culture was so tremendous that it motivated me to take a hard look at our teams (particularly our high school team) and make significant changes to our routines and rituals.

We incorporated many of Coach Hutchins’ ideas, finding that even little things like adding motivational quotes to our calendars and hanging inspirational signs in our locker room and dugout helped reinforce the positive culture we wanted for our team.

We also learned that team bonding was essential to achieve our goals, so we made sure we took the time to prioritize it into our busy schedule. We had previously believed we couldn’t afford to give up precious time for team bonding with our high school team, but after listening to Coach Hutchins, we realized we couldn’t afford not to! We found it didn’t take all that much time and the rewards were invaluable.

How do you know when you’ve made an impact on a player?
The impact we have on players is most evident by the relationships we still have with them long after they’ve moved on. Last week we had dinner with a former player who was in town for the holidays, after which she sent this message:

Little did I know 9 years ago that you two would be the most inspiring people I’d ever meet. Thank you for showing me that hard work, a kind heart, and a LOT of laughs are the most important things in life! Can’t wait for the next time! Love you guys!

That’s how you know you’ve made a difference.


In keeping with the tradition that Be the Best is a convention created for coaches by coaches, we’ve asked for inspirations and stories from your contemporaries. Click here to share something about your coaching journey. Don’t worry about making it sound good — you coach the kids, we‘ll work the words.

A Coach’s Journey: An interview with Jamie Heflin

A Coach’s Journey: An interview with Jamie Heflin

James Heflin
Head Softball Coach, Wheat Ridge High School
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
14U and 18U Club Coach
11 years of coaching

 

What was your best worst moment in softball?
We were in an ASA 18U Gold Qualifier and had made our way to the semifinal game against a national powerhouse – Newtown Rock Gold. It was a real David vs Goliath match-up. But, we went into extra innings and held a three-run lead with Rock holding bats in the bottom of the inning. There was such electricity surrounding the game that other teams gathered around the field, many rooting for us to take down the Rock. So, there were a couple hundred people invested in this game, and probably the biggest atmosphere my third baseman had ever played in.

This third baseman had been lights-out all year, but proceeded to make three errors in a row, which set the table for a dinger later in the inning. These were routine lazy grounders but the hype and pressure of “The Moment” had clearly gotten to her.

Well, we lost the game.

Afterwards, I put my arm around her and said that we as a team had played the best we’d ever played and should be proud that we were able to hang with a club of that caliber. I said that yes, a win would have been great but better than a win was what she would take from the game into her future.

I was right. She not only grew as a player, but took her game to the next level and is enjoying a great career playing softball in college.

Have you had any memorable coaching disasters?
It was all over a call. A very clear call. Or at least I thought it was clear!

There we were in the quarterfinals of the 4A Colorado state playoffs against Air Academy. Their three-hole hitter, and a real stud, was up at the plate. I call a timeout. In the huddle, I stated that we were going to pitch to her, (this was 2016 so intentional walks still had to be pitched) but hoped that she’d chase three balls off the plate. Basically we’d throw outside and give her nothing to hit and then take our chances with bases loaded when the four-hole, who had only one hit on the day, came to bat.

So, I get back to the dugout and my pitching coach affirms what I had said: three balls off the plate. I say yes. She reiterates the call through signals to the catcher.

All good.

A couple seconds later, the ball was pitched and at contact you immediately know that 1) the ball was pitched inside and 2) it was going to leave the park as quickly as it was pitched.

Again, it was “The Moment.”

Aurora Sports Park is a great softball venue that can draw thousands of fans, which certainly has an effect on the players. My catcher, after receiving the game plan in the huddle, after getting the signal from the pitching coach, still gave the pitcher the inside pitch signal.

We ended up losing 7-5.

The catcher defended herself saying that I had called an inside pitch. The pitcher knew it was the wrong call but was afraid to call a timeout thinking that we had used all our conferences. If we had, and she called a timeout, then the rules state we’d have to take her out of the game.

So what did I learn from that?

First of all, though I know I was clear as day going over the game plan in that huddle, I realized that in the heat of the battle, in “The Moment,” it’s easy to mess up. I know I have to double and triple check to make sure that everyone is on the same page. And secondly, I make sure to let the team know they have a field timeout if they need it. I now have a card drawn up for that very moment and in practice, we discuss and teach “The Moment.” OFTEN.

When have you had a significant impact on a player?
Besides the aforementioned third baseman, Izzy, a player on my Varsity Wheat Ridge High School team comes to mind. She has started since she was a freshman, has three years of regional and state tournament experience and is a great leader on the field and in the locker room.

However, our 2017 season had a lot to do with that.

Our team two years ago was not very talented. We had a lot of seniors who were in the starting line-up but prior to that season had really just been role players in the program. Many of them were not competitive travel ball players and did not have the Wheat Ridge mindset, which was that of a championship team.

We barely made it to the state tournament that year and struggled all season on the field and with a lot of locker room turmoil.

Izzy and I had a conversation in which we talked about how the team itself controls the players’ identity and that they alone will determine our success. We discussed our team philosophy that was presented pre-season and how the choices one makes every day is a huge part of leadership.

We had a real lack of leadership on that team We had many small cogs of cliques, the bus was not cohesive, our competitive spirit was weak and many individuals were way more concerned about themselves and their senior year than the welfare of the team.

Going into the 2018 season, Izzy, as a rising junior, asked to speak with the coaching staff during summer workouts. She proposed that while she thought it was great how we derive a new philosophy every season to reflect each year’s team make-up, it might make sense to break the philosophy down into three parts to review and discuss as the team evolves.

This is where you realize all the experience in the world as a coach doesn’t trump a player’s input. You have to hear your players.

This past season we broke down our working philosophy into three parts. The team’s identity dictated how mid-season and post-season philosophies were orchestrated and it worked out well. The locker room lost its drama and our on-field team and coaching staff came together as a whole. Though we lost in the first round of the state playoffs in a slug fest, the kids will be coming back stronger – both mentally and physically – to make a run at a title for the 2019 season!

So what is your three-part philosophy?
Pre-season philosophy: We believe that the previous season dictates the basis of the philosophy. We look at what we did well. We look at our inconsistencies. We look at our mental game. And we preach identity, communication and TEAM.

Mid-season philosophy: We look at what we are doing well and where we need to improve. We review our mental game and again, our inconsistencies and their domino effect on the team.

Post-season philosophy: We summarize the season. How did we get here? What is our current identity? What have we done well? Everything has a POSITIVE spin to carry over to the next season.

What coaches have you learned from over the years?
Karen and Ralph Weekly! They put on a clinic at my club team’s indoor facility back in 2011 and I gained so much from their interaction. After the clinic, they stayed and we discussed the game. They were probably the biggest influence in how I run my defensive strategy as well as my short game and slapping strategy.

Coach Tommy Mann was my CYO football coach back in Springfield, Ohio at St. Teresa’s. This coach won games before the game even started with his precise and sharp warm-up. This laid my foundation and instilled in me the importance of everyday warm-ups and how to intimidate by warm-up on game day.

And last, but not least, Nick Saban. He has been a huge influence on me, not because he has won a multitude of championships, but because of how he communicates his philosophy to his program. He projects the best relatable teaching of leadership and choices I’ve ever heard.

It seems like a coach’s dream to take over a winning program. Is it?
I have taken over a few programs in my coaching career, but none as difficult as Wheat Ridge High School. The program won six state titles in the 2000’s with 20 straight appearances and in the Colorado State Tournament. The previous coach had won titles in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013 and was a runner up in 2015.
I took over the program in 2016.

A program’s inner philosophy, mentality and game strategy is very difficult to change in the first couple of years. Although very successful, the Wheat Ridge mentality that I inherited was that of an old school football coach. When you’re winning state championships, a lot of things can be overlooked. However, as a new coach, your first couple of years are a test. Not only from players, but the program community in general. Including parents.

Although we made it to the state tournament in both 2016 and 2017, I can’t say it was particularly enjoyable for me or my staff. This past 2018 season was the first year we felt like we were making an imprint of our own on the program.

So, is taking over a winning tradition easy? No.

It takes a few years for a coach to make a dent in a program with his or her coaching style, fundamentals, strategy and philosophy. Despite making it to the state tournament my first two years, it took until the 2018 season for me to feel successful and confident that my program was in place.

As we enter the 2019 season, I can finally say it’s completely our program and I couldn’t be more excited to see what’s in store for my players and staff.


In keeping with the tradition that Be the Best is a convention created for coaches by coaches, we’ve asked for inspirations and stories from your contemporaries. Click here to share something about your coaching journey. Don’t worry about making it sound good — you coach the kids, we‘ll work the words.

Time to PARTY!

Time to PARTY!

One of the many highlights of Be the Best is the after-hours Coaches’ Party on Friday night. This informal gathering is where attendees and speakers mix and mingle, sharing stories and drinking beers. 

After a day filled with awesome information, it’s the perfect place to talk about what you’ve learned with those who know the game the best. And, after a few brews, there’s nothing better than boasting about your top players. Your championship team. Or even that walk-off you slammed over your high school fence back in 19…

Don’t miss the Coaches’ Party on Friday night. You don’t have to leave the hotel. The party comes to you. Exact time and location will be announced during the day. 

Can’t wait to see you all, party with you all and learn with you all!

Registration is still open!

Baseball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 10 – Saturday, January 12
Make your hotel reservations NOW!

Softball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 17 – Saturday, January 19
Make your hotel reservations NOW! 

A Coach’s Journey: Laura Horstkamp

A Coach’s Journey: Laura Horstkamp

Laura Horstkamp
 Independent Trainer,
Softball

Sometimes the best way forward is backwards. 

Laura Horstkamp started her coaching career at the college level. From there, she moved on to high school. Then to travel ball. And now, it’s private lessons and guest instruction. Which, self-admittedly, is all kinda backwards.

Laura, who started playing softball when she was ten years old, lucked into coaching. She wasn’t looking for a job. She was simply playing in a slowpitch game against the head coach of a local D3 college. That coach liked what she saw and asked Laura to join her staff. The next 13 years wrote themselves.

A good coach, Laura believes, goes above and beyond the basic teaching of skills. You have to be able to lead, inspire and develop your athletes. You have to cultivate a culture of strong women by fostering an environment of constant learning and trust. And, it’s your responsibility as a coach to make sure your players have the right mindset, constantly striving to improve and progress. Because progress, no matter how small, is still progress. 

Laura loves coaching. She loves teaching. She loves inspiring. And she loves seeing the results. Sure, she’s had her share of somewhat unmemorable moments. Like the game in which her team gave up something like 20 runs. 

But, her truest victories and greatest gifts come from seeing first-hand the impact she’s had on the players she has coached. One of her former students is now giving lessons herself and continually acknowledges the influence Laura has had on her coaching career. She has learned from Laura how to customize training and practice drills to each individual’s style of learning and the importance of meeting kids where they are. 

And that makes the coach in Laura proud. 

Laura Horstkamp has no children of her own. But hundreds have benefitted from knowing her, both as a coach and a person. When you get a Snapchat on Mother’s Day, from someone who’s not your kid saying how much you mean to them, you know you’ve made it.

Even if you kinda did it backwards.


In keeping with the tradition that Be the Best is a convention created for coaches by coaches, we’ve asked for inspirations and stories from your contemporaries. Click here to share something about your coaching journey. Don’t worry about making it sound good — you coach the kids, we‘ll work the words.

A Coach’s Journey: An interview with Brent Treml

A Coach’s Journey: An interview with Brent Treml

Brent Treml
Baseball Pitching Coach
University of the Sciences
Philadelphia

How did you get your start as a coach?
Honestly, it all started as a favor. Back in 2010, my alma mater, Salesianum High School in Wilmington, DE, needed a coach for the freshman baseball team. I thought I’d be one-and-done, but after that season in which we went 16-0, I was hooked. I stayed for nine years.

During that time, I also coached American Legion baseball. Under my four-year tutelage as head coach of Delaware Post 1, we won one American Legion National Championship, a state championship and two state runner-up titles.

I have just begun my collegiate coaching career as pitching coach at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

What do you love about coaching?
I love the camaraderie that exists between coach and player and coach to coach. I love the highs and lows that come with working with players every single day. And, most of all, I love seeing the players buy into the culture we are trying to create and seeing a bunch of individuals turn into a unified force by the end of the season.

What is your best coaching memory?
The easy answer is winning the National Championship in 2018 or our first State Championship in 2017, both of which were filled with proud accomplishments and amazing moments. But, my personal favorite game was defeating Stahl Post 30 in the 2016 American Legion Semifinals.

Stahl had long been the team to beat in Delaware and there was a passionate rivalry between us. That year we split our first four meetings before going on to end their season on their field in the playoffs. It felt like a changing of the guard; after the victory we were viewed as the top dogs in Delaware, having finally earned the respect we deserved.

What was your biggest coaching disaster?
This was a very public disaster. It actually made it to number three in Sportscenter’s Top Plays that night! We were playing Las Vegas in the American Legion World Series Championship which was televised on ESPNU. In an unbelievable pitchers’ duel, the game remained scoreless into the 7th and baserunners were at a premium. We were able to get a runner to 2nd with one out and our number three hitter at the plate. We decided to pinch run our fastest and youngest bench player to increase our chances of scoring.

Las Vegas pulled a trick pick-off play at second, ending our scoring threat and squashing our momentum in a game where every baserunner was like gold. The Las Vegas pitcher stepped off the mound and pump-faked a throw to second, with the middle infielders and outfielders selling the fake beautifully. Our runner dove back to the bag, as he should, got up and began looking for the ball and then to me as the third-base coach.

And here’s where I kick myself. I began yelling, “Stay on the bag!” while simultaneously pointing to second base. The stadium was so loud that the runner couldn’t hear me, but thought my pointing was signaling that the ball was in the outfield. So, he took off for third. Of course, the pitcher, who still had the ball, was able to get him out easily.

I should have had my hands up, showing the runner my palms in our universal “stay” signal, but instead, confused him by pointing to the bag instead.

But, even this disastrous story has a happy ending. We won the title with an eighth inning walk off!

How did you create your winning team culture?
The key to creating a winning culture is for everyone to feel like they have ownership in the success of the team. Coaches and players have to have open and respectful dialogue about lineups and strategies. It’s much easier for players to buy into what you’re doing as a coach if they understand why. Why is the lineup constructed this way? Why are we trying this offense move in this particular situation? Why is our pitching rotation lined up for these specific opponents?

Bad culture breeds when we’re kept in the dark. And that goes both ways – for coaches as well as players. Players need to understand and accept their role, but coaches have to be willing to hear, and consider, what their team has to say as well. This give and take goes a long way toward building trust and confidence. It’s important for everyone to believe that decisions are made to make the team the best it can be, not for selfish reasons or to hurt feelings. To earn respect, you have to make sure your strategies are backed up with honest assessments and explanations for how your decisions will help the team win.

What is your personal coaching philosophy?
I want my team to be confident and aggressive. To know what goal they are going for. And to believe that nobody is in their way but themselves. I am an ultra-sticker during practice, focusing on the little details and not relenting until we have perfected what we’re practicing. I believe in making practice difficult, both physically and mentally so that the game feels easier.

On game day, I am ultra-positive. I never get on a player, unless there’s an obvious lack of effort involved. I want my players to feel little to no pressure during the game so they can be better prepared and more confident in making those instinctual, split-second decisions. I want to take the pressure off my players so they can place it on the opponent, giving us the advantage.

I like to talk about our goals in terms of visuals, like a dogpile. I will then come back to that visual throughout the year as we evaluate our performance. Are we taking steps toward the dogpile or away from it?

Is there one coach you particularly respect?
One of my biggest motivators and influencers was Dennis Walker, my high school coach at Salesianum. His practices were often stressful and difficult, but in preparing the team, he found a way to bring the team together as a by-product. He never let a teachable moment pass by. Ever. Though, he often left it up to us to figure out the lesson on our own. In my own coaching, I mimic this trait of his. Going off-script at times and doing something zany to let the players figure out the why on their own helps break up practice and make it less mundane. And the players more often than not, do learn the lesson on their own.

What are the most important qualities of a coach? Of a player?
To me, the most important quality of a coach and a player are the same. You have to be a sponge. This is a game of adjustments, so both coaches and players must be comfortable and willing to adjust to and try new things.

As a coach, you need to always be learning from other coaches, including your competition. You have to be open to discussing and debating with other coaches and share techniques and situations. Any successful coach out there has a strong network of other coaches with whom to bounce things off. I’ve yet to see a coach find success by existing in a silo. I, personally, have been blessed to coach under, with and against some brilliant coaches who have taught me so much and from whom I continuously “steal” ideas to add to my own coaching philosophy.

As far as players go, the worst trait you can possess is that of being un-coachable. As soon as you believe you know more than your coach you begin rejecting help and your growth in the sport is stunted. That doesn’t mean you have to blindly accept every decision or idea, but it does mean that as a player, you have to be respectful, evaluative and willing to try new things. Just like a coach!

Even Hall of Famer, Cal Ripken, Jr. went through countless different swings throughout his career as he adjusted to different pitchers. Think of it this way, if you were having great success, nobody would be trying to change you. Openness to new ideas is absolutely crucial to success whether you’re a coach or a player.


In keeping with the tradition that Be the Best is a convention created for coaches by coaches, we’ve asked for inspirations and stories from your contemporaries. Click here to share something about your coaching journey. Don’t worry about making it sound good — you coach the kids, we‘ll work the words.

Be the Best Baseball Schedule Released!

Be the Best Baseball Schedule Released!

Just in time for the holidays! Check out the schedule for when your favs are going to be at Be the Best.

This year we’ve got the bases covered with some of the game’s greatest coaches sharing their skills and stories about pitching, recruiting, team-building, base-running, hitting and more. There’s no better way to start the new year than attending the best coaches’ convention around. It’s full of information. Full of friends. And full of fun.

So, look at the line-up and make your game plan. Sign up for Be the Best TODAY. It’s less than a month away!

Baseball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 10 – Saturday, January 12
Make your hotel reservations NOW!

Softball Speaker Schedule is Here!

Softball Speaker Schedule is Here!

Be the Best is just a few weeks away! And, as we all know, at this time of year, it’ll fly by faster than a fast pitch in a fast-paced softball game. So, make your move and sign up NOW for the best softball coaches’ convention anywhere!

With the best of the best coming to speak, you’ll get perspectives from the big guns at the major D1 colleges as well as from D3, travel coaches and professional players. Click here to find out when your favs are speaking!

Be the Best 2019 will definitely go down in the books as being better than ever. Don’t miss it!

Softball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 17 – Saturday, January 19
Make your hotel reservations NOW! 

A Coach’s Journey: John Kidwell

A Coach’s Journey: John Kidwell

John Kidwell
Head Softball Coach
Archbishop Ryan High School
Philadelphia

As a coach, we all take chances. We move our slumping clean-up hitter to seventh and she knocks it out of the park. We switch our short stop to second and she turns an incredible double play. We trust a player to steal home and we win the game. We take chances that make our players shine, propel us to victories and make us, as coaches, look good.

Or, we take a chance in the semifinals, by starting a freshman pitcher over the sophomore who beat the same team during the regular season. And, we lose the game, remembering it as one of our all-time coaching disasters.

2014 PCL Champions

But, coaching has incredible highs. Like winning the Catholic League Championship in 2014 for the first time since 1995, in the same season that we lost a long-time, beloved coach. What a tremendous feeling it was to win that title, not just for the team, but for the coach we lost. And, the pride of knowing that winning four out of five league championships has just as much to do with chemistry and ego-checking than talent.

Growing up I had two younger sisters who played softball. I spent a lot of time watching them play and figuring out the game. By the time I got to college, I knew for sure I wanted to be a coach.

I landed the head junior varsity coaching position at Archbishop Ryan in 1992. In 1997, I was promoted to varsity as an assistant coach and in 2014 was named softball’s head coach after Andy Hafele passed away.

Patches worn during the 2014 season in remembrance of Andy Hafele

Andy and I coached together for 22 years. He was not only my mentor, but a huge influence on the coach I’ve become. He taught me how to run a program and how to establish a winning culture. Andy’s presence on the field is felt to this day and I can’t help but feel he is a big reason for our recent success.

I think about Andy when I consider the impact I have on my players and work hard on building the same respect and trust that he did. Our players are only with us for four years, but the physical and emotional transformations we witness from freshman to senior year is absolutely awesome. By the time they graduate from Archbishop Ryan and head off to college, they are ready for the world. It gives me great joy to know that I, through the game of softball, was able to help shape these players into the incredible young women they’ve become.

Andy Hafele Memorial Softball Field, Archbishop Ryan High School, Philadelphia, PA


In keeping with the tradition that Be the Best is a convention created for coaches by coaches, we’ve asked for inspirations and stories from your contemporaries. Click here to share something about your coaching journey. Don’t worry about making it sound good — you coach the kids, we‘ll work the words.

Why do coaches coach?

Why do coaches coach?

Coaches coach for many different reasons. Some want to give back. To the game, to the community, to the people who helped them along the way. Others are motivated by the thrill of competition, the emotion of the game and the camaraderie of the team. And some want to propel their players to the next level, watch them succeed and have a positive impact on their lives.

But the bottom line is, coaches coach because it’s fun.

And that’s why Be the Best adds FUN to the line-up.

Ask anyone who’s ever been to the convention. It’s not about listening to lectures from top college and professional coaches. It’s not about one-sided dialogues and technical presentations. What makes Be the Best so great is the natural interaction, the candid discussions and the back-and-forth sharing of skills, ideas and stories.

You may find yourself exchanging emails with one of the most celebrated coaches in college softball, drinking a beer with an MLB coach or chatting over coffee with a professional player. Be the Best speakers remember when they, too, were making their way in the baseball and softball worlds and genuinely want to do what they can to enhance your personal journey.

Don’t miss the ball on this one. We promise that Be the Best is more than instructive. More than informative. It’s down-right fun!

Registration is open NOW!

Baseball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 10 – Saturday, January 12
Make your hotel reservations NOW!

Softball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 17 – Saturday, January 19
Make your hotel reservations NOW! 

A Coach’s Journey: Phil Forbes III

A Coach’s Journey: Phil Forbes III

Phil Forbes III
Head Baseball Coach
Menchville High School
Newport News, Virginia

USA TODAY’s Coach of the Year, 2009
In 2009, all nine starters went on to play college baseball.

Ever since I was a high school athlete I knew I wanted to become a coach. Luckily, my teachers and coaches saw something in that teenage kid and put me on the right path. I went to college to become a teacher so my dream could come true. I had so much respect for my coaches back then that their seal of approval was all I needed. In particular, I was inspired by my baseball coach, John Jones. He was tough, but he cared. I wanted to be a John Jones.

But, I wanted to be more than a baseball coach. I wanted to coach it all. And, so I did.

Over the course of 43 years, I have coached baseball, basketball, football, wrestling, track, volleyball and tennis at the high school and / or club level, winning championships at the district, regional and state levels.

As a baseball coach, my teams have won states, regions, districts and the national championship as NUMBER ONE in the country. Menchville High School breeds both great players and coaches. I have had some amazing assistant coaches who are extremely dedicated and together we have created a culture that reflects the game of life, not just the game of baseball.

We are so proud of the many collegiate ball players and MLB draftees that Menchville has turned out. But, we are equally as proud of those who applied the lessons they learned on the field to their chosen professions, making them huge successes in the working world.

Whatever sport I coach, I believe in the same basic philosophy. If you are disciplined on and off the field, adopt a great work ethic, be a family, be true to your parents and be a good student you will be successful, not just in your sport, but beyond.

As a coach, I try always to be fair and honest. I respect the game and want to bring out the best in each and every kid. I want to know I’ve been heard and know I’ve made an impact when a player comes back later and says, “Coach, you were right. If only I had listened.”

Today, I’m living the dream. A coach’s dream, a husband’s dream, a father’s dream and a grandfather’s dream. I’m the head baseball coach of Menchville High School. My high school sweetheart and wife, Lynn, is my biggest supporter. We critique every game together, giving me an invaluable spectator’s perspective. My son, Philip IV, is our hitting coach. And, my grandson, Philip V, plays on the team and has committed to James Madison University.

What could be better than that?


In keeping with the tradition that Be the Best is a convention created for coaches by coaches, we’ve asked for inspirations and stories from your contemporaries. Click here to share something about your coaching journey. Don’t worry about making it sound good — you coach the kids, we‘ll work the words.