UBCO announces Joni Frei as new coach, rest of staff

Kelowna, B.C. – UBC Okanagan will have a new competitive club take to the field this fall as softball gets set to debut in September under the coaching leadership of Joni Frei. No stranger to the game, Joni’s past roles include Head Coach of Team BC at the North American Indigenous Games, Director of Coaching for Softball BC, and assistant coach for NCAA Division I Kennesaw State University and Mercer University. Frei, who is originally from Kelowna, has a Master’s degree in Public Administration and is a Chartered Professional Coach and NCCP Master Learning Facilitator and Coach Evaluator.

UBC Okanagan is introducing a new competitive club sport model in 2019-20 that is predominantly participant and sponsorship funded in an effort to provide additional competitive interuniversity sport opportunities to students, as well as providing a broader range of sport offerings at the post-secondary level in the Okanagan.

Softball will be among the first teams for UBCO under the new model, and has assembled a strong leadership team to build the program. Frei’s vision for the program is focused on “recruiting high character, highly motivated achievers both between and beyond the white lines”, and emphasizes that “family, fun, results, and community service will be corner stones of our program.”

As a university player, Frei had considerable success between the lines, including leading her team, Georgia College & State University (GCSU), to a runner up finish at the NCAA Division II World Series and recently being inducted into the GCSU Athletics Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Famer is especially excited about the value of softball for creating female role models, “We want our student-athletes to enjoy an incredible experience while graduating as empowered women and capable leaders,” remarked the former Softball BC Director of Coaching.

Mentorship has been a theme in Frei’s life.  At Softball BC she helped develop coaches across the province. As owner of Beyond The White Lines Softball, Frei has impacted thousands of players through camps, clinics, and the Canada Futures collegiate experience team.  This December, Frei will take a team of 26 to Uganda under her “Grow the Game” initiative.

The UBC Okanagan softball team will be one of eight post-secondary institutions competing in the Western Collegiate Softball Association (WCSA).  Following an annual fall schedule, the team has aspirations to qualify for the Canadian Collegiate Softball Association National Championships.

“Thank you to Darren Bennett and George Edwards for laying the foundation for the program, and Athletic Director Tom Huisman for supporting it”, says head coach Frei. Dr. Ramon Lawrence, team sponsor, also recognizes Randy Plishka, President of the Western Collegiate Softball Association, for his support in including the team in the league.

For his part, UBC Okanagan Director of Athletics and Recreation, Tom Huisman, found it easy to explain the virtues of a competitive club model and the potential of the new softball team.

“The benefits of interuniversity sport participation are many, and although there is limited capacity to the number of teams that can be funded through the Department of Athletics & Recreation, softball demonstrated a commitment and opportunity to build a competitive program that has a sustainable future that has community support, inclusive of its local sport organization, Kelowna Minor Fastball.”

The players of the Heat softball club will be supported by an amazing coach staff working as a team to make UBC Okanagan softball a success, including:

  • Michelle Webster, Associate Head Coach, Softball B.C. 2018 Head Coach of the Year
  • Jocelyn Cater, Pitching Coach, former Canadian National Team and NCAA Div I Player
  • Brittany Smith, Assistant Coach and Athletic Trainer, NCCP Level II Coach
  • Lindsay Gabelhouse, Data Analyst/Media Relations, NCCP Level II Coach
  • Emma Gilbert, Strength Coach, personal trainer and former player at Jamestown University
  • Darren Bennett, Facilities Manager/Community Engagement Liaison, NCCP Level II Coach
  • Ramon Lawrence, Director of Operations, UBC Faculty member and NCCP Level II Coach

The softball team has an exciting future and will positively impact women in sport at UBC Okanagan. UBCO students wanting to be part of the team should plan to attend a player identification camp scheduled for March 30th and contact Ramon Lawrence (ramon.lawrence@ubc.ca) for more details.  Interested sponsors or donors of the new softball team are also invited to contact Ramon Lawrence.