GB Co-ed and Men’s Slowpitch Team Head Coach Stephen Patterson has stepped down from the role after 12 successful years, during which GB Slowpitch Teams won numerous European Championship titles under his leadership.
Stephen, who took over the role of GB Co-ed Slowpitch Head Coach from Jeremy Bedford in April 2012, had hoped to lead the team to a first-ever WBSC World Cup in Mexico last December as the climax to his GB career, but the tournament was unfortunately cancelled by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).
Stephen has always had a reputation as a leader and an outstanding game management tactician, which has served the GB Slowpitch programme well on numerous occasions.
In his letter of resignation to the BSF, Stephen said, “I wish to thank the British Softball Federation for the opportunities it has afforded me as the Head Coach of the Great Britain Slowpitch National Teams.
“I had been in discussions with Team Manager Kellie Whitaker and Assistant Coach Luis Arrevillagas since early autumn  in relation to my plans to step down from the Head Coach role. Our hopes were to identify an appropriate succession plan, but this has not come to fruition within the time available.
“The WBSC Slowpitch World Cup would have been the appropriate culmination of my career, spanning nearly 25 years of dedication as a player and a coach.
“My mantra for the GB programme on taking the Head Coach role was to ‘play more and to make it special’. Under my leadership we have made several trips to the USA (including playing in MLB stadiums), and to several locations across Europe and we have taken part in a number of development tournaments domestically.
“A particular success I cherish was the blending of new talent in GB's European squads, where each squad showed nearly a 30 percent change from previous year, evidencing the real development opportunities for our players and the sustainability of the slowpitch programme's progress.”
Stephen Patterson grew up in New England in the United States, where he played baseball, softball, soccer, and golf and eventually came to the UK in 1995 as a ski and snowboard coach. In 1999, Stephen discovered that softball existed in Britain and helped start the Brighton Beachcombers Softball Club.
But Stephen soon began playing more competitive softball. He attended GB Co-ed Slowpitch Team trials in 2001 and made the team that was selected for the 2002 European Championship in Mlade Buky in the Czech Republic as well as the team selected for the first ISF Slowpitch World Cup that took place that same year in Plant City, Florida.
Stephen was a starter for the GB Co-ed Slowpitch Team from 2002 through 2010 and captained the team from 2005 onwards. In both 2004 and 2006, he knocked in the tying and go-ahead runs in the European Championship semi-finals and finals.
In 2011, however, he made what he called the “difficult decision to step down from the captainship and my on-field role as player to support Jeremy Bedford as an Assistant Coach, focusing on infield, communication, and development.”
When Jeremy Bedford stepped down as GB Slowpitch Coach, Stephen was appointed to the role.
His GB Co-ed Slowpitch Teams won European Championships in 2013, 2015, 2019, and 2022, but Stephen did preside over GB’s only loss in a European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship, to Germany in 2017.
After Softball Europe started a Men’s Slowpitch Championship, Stephen’s GB Men’s Teams won the gold medal in 2018 and 2022, the two occasions on which the tournament has been played.
Stephen also took GB Co-ed Slowpitch Teams to the ISF World Cup tournaments played in Plant City, Florida from 2014 through 2018, but second place was the highest finish the team achieved against a mixture of national and club teams from the USA, Canada, the Caribbean, and Europe.
Stephen was also one of the founders of the long-running and successful NSL team H20 and played on numerous occasions for Team USA in the Softball World Series.
Asked about the highlights of his time in charge of the GB Slowpitch Teams, Stephen said, “I take great pride in garnering over 16 medals and earning six European gold medals across Co-ed and Men's Championships. In these Championships, Team Great Britain had a record of 78 wins against only 6 losses.
“When considering the Plant City ISF World Cups, and additional travel tournaments across Europe and America, the overall number of wins exceeds 100 during my Head Coaching tenure.
“I'm very proud of our performances on the diamond. Winning so many gold medals never comes easy. Making in-game adjustments and motivating the team was the key to our successes. I recall 2013, when we lost to Slovenia twice but had the response to dominate the semi-final and final. In the 2022 Men's Championship, there were two losses to the Netherlands, yet the team produced spectacularly to win gold.
“Additionally, taking the helm of our World Series GB Futures Teams, under Euro-competitive conditions, provided some of the best weekends: guiding our younger and less-experienced players to several top six finishes, and competing several times in the Championship game, was amazing. This continued to lead to a very healthy succession path for our developing players.
“I always believed in creating a more national squad, by expanding our talent pool beyond Greater London and few other players. By making the programme more attractive and inclusive, players wanted to be a part of something great. We now have greater representation from across the UK and the Channel Islands.
“I am proud of our succession and development of players. When I played in 2002 in Mlade Buky, I was the youth at 33 years old. But my staff and I have continued to identify young talent and get them involved. We've had teenagers playing in official tournaments, and a number of others in their 20s are contributing regularly.
“I preferred to lead from within and the players allowed me to do this. We create a vibe or understanding, where comraderie builds trust. From that trust, you then build energy. With that energy, you build team. And that TEAM wins.
“My philosophy was that if a player was good enough to be selected, they were good enough to play, and I continually created a number of different lineups so that every player would get legitimate playing time and an opportunity to shine in competition.
“Overall,” Stephen added, “I love playing the game. The GB Slowpitch programme adopted me, and I believe I have given back to it in spades. I loved being around my players and staff. In turn, I believe we got the most out of each other.”
With both Stephen Patterson and Team Manager Kellie Whitaker having resigned since the turn of the year, the BSF is currently conducting a review of the GB Slowpitch programme, led by BSUK Performance Director and Olympic Team Leader Gary Anderson.
Once the review has concluded, and new criteria for the position have been established, the BSF will advertise for a new GB Slowpitch Head Coach – or Head Coaches, given that the programme now consists of both the Co-ed and Men’s National Team -- and then a new Team Manager or Managers will be selected.
Both teams, hopefully, have European Championships coming up this summer. The European Co-ed Slowpitch Championship will definitely be played from 15-21 July in Pardubice, Czechia, but no host has yet been identified for the European Men ‘s Slowpitch Championship.