The NFCA probably represents many things to its thousands of members. At its basic level, however, the NFCA is softball's version of a melting pot where once a year coaches at all levels (amateur, travel ball/club, high school, junior college, NAIA, Division One, Division Two and Division Three) plus umpires and fans of softball come together to make recommendations, propose and vote on rules, develop and plan programs for the betterment of the sport. Today the NFCA membership is more than 4,300 people strong and is expected to get only bigger in the future.
Since the summer of 1994 Lacy Lee Baker has served as executive director of the NFCA which completed its annual convention in San Antonio, TX with a record number of attendees and vendors. Rayla Allison was hired as the organization's first executive director in 1991. In 1995, the organization's name was changed to NFCA and it was effective in September, 1996.
Baker took time out from her busy schedule to answer some questions regarding the NFCA and the sport of softball.
Regarding NFCA future plans, she said: “It was apparent at the convention that there needs more communication between all groups of the NFCA, and the board is working to develop a plan to be more inclusive. In addition, we want our committees to be more active in growing the NFCA and the sport in general.”
The sport will only get stronger if there's opportunity for world competition on the biggest stage there is (Olympics). Here in the US television exposure has done wonders for the game and our sport has grown tremendously in the last 20 years. All the softball organizations need to work together to continue that momentum.”
The NFCA has played an important role in the development of the sport during those last 20 years and that is something Baker is proud of. “I believe that the NFCA has been an integral part of the growth of softball. We have wonderful members at all levels who care about the game, the student-athletes who play it and its future. They’re in the game for the right reasons, and their leadership has made the NFCA a strong organization. Their love of the game is the foundation for where we've been, where we are now and where we’re going. ”
The purposes of the NFCA are listed below:
1. To stimulate the development of quality leadership for fastpitch softball programs, and to recognize professional contributions to the sport by:
a. Keeping members informed of current coaching techniques and trends.
b. Providing national and international educational training for fastpitch softball coaches.
c. Encouraging, supporting, and providing guidance in the development and conduct of fastpitch softball programs whose purposes correlate with the general objectives of education.
d. Instilling within coaches a deep sense of responsibility for developing and conducting programs that will en rich the lives of the participants.
2. To encourage the playing of fastpitch softball in accordance with the highest traditions of competition.
3. To foster national and international amateur fastpitch softball competition.
4. To facilitate public and professional understanding and appreciation of the importance and value of the sport of fastpitch softball.
5. To identify and pursue issues relevant to fastpitch softball coaches and to the sport of fastpitch softball; and to provide a forum for the discussion of matters of interest to members of the Association.
6. To provide a channel of direct communication among fastpitch softball coaches at all educational levels.
7. To maintain a membership group representative of all sections of the United States, and all levels of fastpitch softball competition.
8. To organize the coaches as a group interested in formulating and promoting guiding principles, standards, and policies for conducting competitive fastpitch softball programs for girls and women; and to provide a united body for positive action relative to the sport of fastpitch softball.
9. To promote cooperative efforts with other professional organizations similarly interested in the ultimate development of fast pitch softball programs and opportunities for fastpitch softball players.
10. To promote cooperative efforts with other professional organizations interested in girls’ and women’s athletics (programs, coaches, and players).
There is no doubt that the NFCA has contributed and helped develop the sport, especially in the area of coaches and getting them together. It's a far cry from the early days of the organization which first developed from discussions at the National Collegiate Women’s Softball Championships in the early 1980's when the AIAW and the NCAA were vying for the control of college softball. Judy Martino of North Carolina is credited with forming the organization as collegiate coaches wanted an awards program, a forum to discuss issues affecting the sport, a means to better educate coaches and update them on softball-related issues, and representation in such organization as the NCAA and the ASA. At that time, dues were $35.00 per year and the 1984 budget showed income of $17,375 and expenses of $14,529.
It was determined that the purpose of the National Softball Coaches Association was “to educate softball coaches and the public in the game of softball, including coordinating the relationship between softball team membership and other educational endeavors through the development of softball in all its aspects as an amateur sport, including maintaining communication of new ideas and discussion of issues involving softball and education.” The NSCA planned to achieve these goals by initiating softball clinics, hosting national softball conventions, conducting regional meetings, and by providing official publications to all members. The major sources of income were expected to come from membership dues, corporate sponsors and clinics.
Since then, the organization's college coaches have welcomed assistant coaches, high school coaches, travel ball coaches and affiliate members, which consist of umpires, foreign coaches, professional coaches, former coaches and those persons generally interested in softball.
Other milestones in the Association's history are:
• Approval as an affiliate member of the NCAA in 1984.
• Approval as an allied member of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) in April, 1988.
Softball is only better because of the people who believed in forming the NFCA and the organization will only get better in the future because of the dedicated people like Lacy Lee Baker and her staff and the thousands of coaches and fans who care about amateur softball.