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A Preview of the GCAA National Convention

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Preview of the GCAA National Convention

By Ron Balicki

NORMAN, Okla. ?
Okay, so I?m not officially a coach (although there are a number of coaches out there who refer to me as such). But I?ve been around and involved with the college coaching community for more than a quarter of a century.

So maybe you can say I?m the closest thing to being a coach only without the official title.

I mean, I?ve probably been to more college tournaments than most current coaches. I?ve attended 25 consecutive NCAA Division I Championships, which, I believe, is a streak no other active coach can claim. I?ve also been to a number of NCAA Division II and Division III Championships as well as the National Junior College Championship.

I?ve certainly had my share of being there for NCAA regional tournaments along with a good share of Palmer Cups, including the very first one at Bay Hill in 1997.

Are you getting the picture?

If not, here?s one more for you. I?ve lost count on how many Golf Coaches Association of America annual conventions there have been, but I know one thing, I?ve been there for every one of them.

Now I know that some coaches don?t see much value in attending the GCAA Convention. To them I say you are wrong -- like big time wrong.

I?ll admit, not every convention has been riveting, controversial, or filled with key issues relating to the college game.

But many of them have been just that and what I?ve noticed, especially over the last number of years, what goes in and come out of some of these does, in fact, make a difference.

The convention is a major voice for the coaches and you can bet the voices are heard by those who make the rules, not only within college golf, but also with the United States Golf Association.

I?ve also noticed that within the last few years more and more coaches are voicing their views and opinions and I think that is a good and healthy thing within the coaching community.

To me, there is no better place than the convention to have your voice heard. And, while everyone doesn?t always agree with everyone else all the time -- that?s life in general -- you can at the least give someone something to think about. It just may be something they had not thought about previously.

Another reason to attend is the simplest of all -- camaraderie with fellow coaches across the country at all levels of coaching. I like to think of the coaching community as family and to me there is nothing better, or more important, than staying in touch and close to family.

It?s a wonderful time for young coaches to meet -- and maybe even learn a thing or two from -- the more veteran coaches, and visa versa. It?s an ideal opportunity for networking and promoting your program. Who knows, it may even get you into a tournament or two, which could give your program an upgraded status.

And maybe most important of all, the convention is a time to recognize and honor those in your own profession who have excelled, whether it be over the past year or over a long coaching career. By your presence at the convention, and the Hall of Fame Awards Dinner, you show your respect for those who have paved the way and helped make being a college golf coach a most important part of any college or university.

There are also wonderful opportunities for learning, whether it be Rules of the game, rules of the NCAA and USGA, insight on new or innovative golf-related equipment or items, or insight as to what is going on in the industry.

This year?s GCAA Convention is set for Dec. 7-9 at the Riviera Hotel & Casino, the first time it will be held in Las Vegas and the western part of the U.S. From the itinerary I?ve seen, it should be another good one.

Leading into the actual meetings will be a Rules Workshop, which the GCAA has made an annual activity. This will be held Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 5-6 with PGA of America Rules committee members instructing.

Last year I attended the rules workshop -- my first ever -- and I found it to be a most enriching experience. I learned so much and it was anything but boring. About the only thing I was disappointed in was how few coaches attended.

I think every coach should take advantage of this opportunity -- at least once every two or three years -- and, most importantly, pass on what they learned to their players. I still see so many players at tournaments who hurt themselves and their team because they don?t know the rules. To me, this is just as an important a responsibility for a coach as teaching the golf swing or preparing for a tournament.

In addition this year, at noon on Dec. 6 and in conjunction with the rules workshop, College Golf Combines will host one of its sessions, which should be very interesting and provide an extra recruiting value.

In a nutshell, or the condensed version, here?s what to expect at this year?s convention:

Monday Dec. 7 --  GCAA President Mark Crabtree (Louisville) will give an opening address followed by the NCAA Compliance Seminar, which is always most insightful, and guest speaker Keith Kleven. The afternoon will include an NCAA Division I and Division II breakout sessions and roundtable discussions for Divisions III, NAIA and NJCAA. The evening begins with a Hall of Fame reception followed by the Hall of Fame Award Dinner.

Tuesday, Dec. 8 ? John Reis will conduct a USGA Rules presentation (John is always informative not to mention entertaining) followed by the GCAA general business meeting where members are informed of the state of the organization and elections will be held for GCAA Third Vice-President, NJCAA Representative At-Large and Director positions. The afternoon is filled with breakout sessions for Divisions I, II, III, NAIA and NJCAA. Late afternoon and early evening features corporate sponsors exhibits (cocktails ad hors d?oeuvres). Not only is this a great time to socialize with fellow coaches, but to also meet and talk to representatives from a wide variety of those in the golf industry. Talk about an ideal time to do some networking, this is it.

Wednesday, Dec. 9 -- The bulk of the day will feature various speakers and ways to help better one?s program through product and innovation.

And, of course, for those who want to get in a round or two of golf, there will be the opportunity. OB Sports Las Vegas is extending to all GCAA members at the convention discount fees of $55 (cart and greens fee) at its three properties: Aliante, Angel Park and Legacy Golf Club. Those interested should contact Jason Mattaini (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) to set up tee times.

The bottom line here is if you are a member of the GCAA you should make plans to attend the upcoming convention. You owe it to your fellow coaches, to the organization that supports what you do, to yourself and even to your players and your program.

The GCAA is the leading voice for college golf coaches -- for your voice.