The GB Management Committee (GBMC) has made a number of appointments to fill coaching and managerial vacancies on GB Fastpitch National Team staffs for the upcoming competition season.
Head Coach and Team Manager appointments have been approved by the BSF Executive.
The GBMC has appointed three new Head Coaches: Johanna Malisani as Head Coach of the newly-created GB Under-22 Women’s Team, Robbie Robison as Head Coach of the GB Under-19 Women’s Team and Jodie Rushin as Head Coach of the GB Under-13 Girls’ Team.
A GB Under-22 Women’s Team has been created this year to help players bridge the gap between junior and senior levels of play, and BSUK Fastpitch Development Manager Johanna Malisani, who was the Head Coach for the GB Under-16 Girls’ Team last summer at the European Cadette Championship, will take over the Under-22s this year for the European Under-22 Championship in July in Trnava, Slovakia.
The GB Under-16s do not have an official competition this year, though Jo hopes to take the team to an invitational tournament in Italy at some point during the summer.
Jo brings extensive playing, coaching and administrative experience with club, provincial and national teams in Canada to the GB Under-22 position, and she is a Level 3 certified coach with both Softball Canada and BaseballSoftballUK.
But she won’t have much time to prepare her team for the European Under-22 Championship, as around two-thirds of the players selected for the GB Under-22s will also be playing with the GB Under-19 Women’s Team at the European Junior Championship in northeast Italy. The Under-19 and Under-22 Championships run back-to-back, with just a day in between, so the Under-22 players not playing in the Junior Championship will still attend that tournament to train and bond with their teammates.
Robbie Robison replaces Rachael Watkeys as the GB Under-19 Women’s Head Coach after Rachael, who is also the Head Coach for the GB Senior Women’s Team, filled in last year with the Under-19s in the absence of any alternatives.
Robbie was an Assistant Coach with the GB Under-19s last summer at the WBSC Junior World Championship in Florida, and has previously been an Assistant Coach with the GB Women’s Team and the GB Co-ed Slowpitch Team, as well as a player with the GB Men’s Fastpitch Team and GB Slowpitch Team.
Robbie now feels he is ready to step up to a Head Coach role, and had his first taste of it as Head Coach of the GB Select Team that competed in January at the Indoor Cup in Schiedam in the Netherlands.
The GB Under-19s will go to this summer’s European Junior Championship in Staranzano, Italy as the defending champion, having won GB’s first-ever European fastpitch gold medal when the tournament was last held in 2016. But with the World Baseball Softball Confederation now making all World Championships closed competitions, the GB Team will have to win a medal again this summer to qualify for the 2019 Junior World Championship in California.
Jodie Rushin played for all the GB age-group fastpitch teams up to Under-19 level, but then had to step back from playing because of injury. She has been an Assistant Coach as well as Physiotherapist for the GB Under-13 Girls’ Team for the past few years, and took on the role of Acting Head Coach last summer when the team travelled to the European Massimo Romeo Youth Trophy in Collecchio, Italy after long-time Head Coach Beth Perkins was unable to make the trip for work reasons.
With Beth taking a year out from softball to devote more time to work and family, Jodie has now been appointed Under-13 Head Coach in her own right, and will take the GB Under-13s, playing as the London Cubs, back to the Massimo Romeo tournament in August.
GB Under-19 Men
Meanwhile, the GB programme has just lost a Head Coach with the resignation of Chris Yoxall from this position with the GB Under-19 Men, and the position has now been advertised.
Chris led the team at the European Junior Men’s Championship last summer, but is struggling to find time to commit to the programme, and is also trying to recover from injury to maintain his playing career with GB Slowpitch.
As the GB Under-19 Men do not have an official tournament this summer, Chris has resigned at a point when the team will have a reasonable amount of time to find a new Head Coach. In the meantime, Team Manager Ian Tomlin is assuming a coaching role and is taking the team to a development tournament in Israel in March in a dual capacity.
The GBMC has appointed two new Team Managers: Wesley Knapp as Manager of the Great Britain Men’s Fastpitch Team and Whitney Hollis as Manager of the new Under-22 Women’s Team.
Wesley Knapp is replacing outgoing GB Men’s Fastpitch Team Manager Lee Grafton, who is leaving the UK to take up residence in the Cayman Islands.
Wes has played softball for more than 25 years both in New Zealand and the UK, and has taken on managerial roles with the Meteors Men’s Fastpitch Team at the annual high-level Zeister Slot Tournament in Holland and within the Great Britain Fastpitch League. His day job involves project management and Wes’s wife, as a qualified accountant, will be able to help keep track of the Men’s Team finances. Wes feels that taking on a national team manager’s position is a natural progression as he steps back from playing.
Whitney Hollis played fastpitch and slowpitch growing up in America, and has concentrated on slowpitch since moving to the UK in 2009, where she has managed corporate softball and five-a-side football teams, as well as managing various teams in the Greater London Softball Mixed League. Whitney’s day job is involved with event and project management, and she is exciting about leveraging her corporate business skills to support the newest GB National Team.
A number of new Assistant Coaches have been appointed for the GB Under-22 and GB Under-19 Women’s Teams, either through recommendations from interview panels set up by the GBMC, or by Head Coaches of the teams concerned.
Following interviews, GB Under-22 Women’s Team Head Coach Johanna Malisani has appointed two experienced American university coaches to her staff: Gina Carbonatto as Assistant Coach and Windy Thees as the team’s pitching coach.
Gina Carbonatto played both NCAA Division 1 and National Pro Fastpitch League softball in the US, and was the only player at her school, the University of the Pacific, to end her college career with a batting average of over .400. She is currently in her second year as an Assistant Coach at the University of California, Davis, having previously held Assistant Coach positions at the University of the Pacific and the University of Washington when the team won the National Championship in 2009.
Gina is also a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with a Masters degree in Sport Pedagogy, and has connections to the UK through her British partner.
Windy Thees was a four-year starter as a second base player and catcher at Florida State, one of the top softball programmes in the United States, and is currently in her third season as the Associate Head Coach at Utah State University, having served as Head Coach at the University of Mississippi, the University of Memphis and Georgia College and State University. She also has previous European experience as an Assistant Coach with the Russian National Team.
GB Under-19 Head Coach Robbie Robison has appointed two experienced coaches to his staff for the European Junior Championship: Russ Snow as Assistant Coach, and GB Women’s Team Pitching Coach Tina Whitlock to the same role with the Under-19 Women.
Russ Snow had a long career as a premier men’s fastpitch player, and then went into coaching. He has strong British connections through his marriage to former British Olympian Cindy Gilbert, and Russ became Head Coach of the GB Women’s Team when they had their first attempt at Olympic qualification in 1999, leading the team to a third-place finish at the Qualifier with losses by just one run to both the Netherlands and the winners, Italy. Russ later went on to be become Head Coach for the GB Men’s Team, and took the team to two World Championships, finishing eighth and ninth.
Tina Whitlock, a former all-American player at South Carolina, and with extensive college coaching experience in the United States, was appointed Pitching Coach for the GB Women’s Team last year, and helped the team achieve the bronze medal at the European Women’s Championship and qualify for this year’s World Championship in Japan.
Tina’s appointment as Pitching Coach for the GB Under-19s, succeeding Dutch National Team player Lindsey Meadows-Oosterveld, will help maintain a continuity of approach throughout the GB programme, as Tina will be coaching one pitcher with the GB Under-19s, Beth Fleming, who has also been selected to the GB Women’s Team for the 2018 WBSC World Championship in Japan.