Currently, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame doesn't have a member from Ashland University.
By Friday (Dec. 8) night, that will change.
Former Eagle head softball coach Sheilah Gulas will enter the NFCA Hall of Fame on Friday night as part of the NFCA's annual convention in Las Vegas, Nev. For Gulas, who ended her 31-season head coaching career between Ashland, Wittenberg and Allegheny with 929 wins, Friday will be the end of a year-long journey since finding out about her impending induction.
"I'm definitely prepared," Gulas said. "It's kind of cool when they announce it a year in advance so you can celebrate it. A lot of people are planning on coming out, so I'm definitely looking forward to it. The most important thing for me is to celebrate it with a lot of people who are important to me, and to recognize them for everything they've been to me."
Gulas retired as Ashland's head softball coach earlier this year following a 21-season run in which she went 723-365-1 (.664), never had a losing campaign, was named Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year four times and went to the NCAA Division II playoffs 12 times.
"I could not have asked for a more amazing year. So many milestones within this year, not only professional, but personal," said Gulas, who added that she isn't done with softball, continuing to work camps and give personal lessons.
Gulas isn't the only one eagerly anticipating Friday night's induction. First-year Eagle head softball coach Emlyn Knerem, a former pitcher for Gulas at Ashland, will be among the dozens of people on hand to honor Gulas in Vegas.
"It's going to be a really cool experience," Knerem said. "There's a really large group of us going, so I know she's excited to see her former players and all the people who coached with her and for her in the audience.
"It was a really proud moment to hear the announcement last year at convention. To be back a year later, and be there for her induction and celebrate with her and her family, I'm just glad that she's going to be surrounded by all of us that night."
Gulas said there are going to be more than 20 of her former players in Vegas, and those players account for 774 of her wins as a college head coach. Also among the five tables-worth of people in her group will be former Ashland assistant coaches Shonda Stanton (current head softball coach at NCAA Division I Indiana), Julie Weir-Gott, Dave Leffew, Bill Graham, Jexx Varner and Shannon Schaub.
"The people that are going to be there, like the former players that are currently coaching, there's a number of them who are going to be there that I coached Ashland that are coaching in the college and high school levels," Gulas noted. "It definitely makes me feel good. It's exciting for me to follow that group."
Knerem is part of the Gulas "coaching tree," one which extends from Stanton, who came to Indiana after 18 seasons guiding Division I Marshall, to Knerem, getting her head coaching start at her alma mater.
"It's cool when you look back at our alumni, at how many are coaching now, and how many are head coaches," Knerem said. "Just all these people who are in the game still. And if you ask any one of us, we'll tell you that Sheilah played a big part, not only in our playing career, but our coaching career."
Gulas said she definitely knows retiring was the right decision after watching the Eagles play in fall games at Akron's Firestone Stadium.
"I'm kind of like the proud mom in the stands," she said. "I looked at it, and I was so proud and happy for the job the current coaches are doing."
The NFCA Hall of Fame isn't the only one Gulas is going to join shortly. She also is a member of the 2018 class of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in Chautauqua County, N.Y. That induction will take place at the CSHOF's 37th Annual Banquet on Feb. 19.
As for the moment on Friday night when she gets up in front of hundreds of people and gives a speech, Gulas said her biggest fear is being able to "pull it off."
"That's the one thing I think I am dreading the most," Gulas said. "I really got my speech done about a month ago, and I've been reading it and reading it and reading it, because I have no idea what my emotions are going to be like. Standing out looking at the audience, the banquet is going to be packed. I can't even put into words what my emotions are going to be like. I hope I can just keep them in check.
"I hope I can put it on cruise control and forge ahead. It's been an awesome career with amazing people I've been blessed with, on and off the field. That's what we're celebrating."
Sheilah Gulas NFCA Hall of Fame Introductory Video