Every week a new Braves Softball Coach of the Week is crowned. This time around, Roswell Recreation softball coach Josh Burris has walked away with 55% of the votes. A Sandy Springs native, Burris has been making an impact in his community in some big ways.
“Josh has been my daughter’s coach for three seasons,” Natalie Grabowski told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He has taken girls who have never thrown a ball and turned them into amazing softball players who support each other and know what it means to be a part of a team.”
When it comes to providing high praise, Grabowski is far from alone.
“Josh has been pivotal in my daughter’s development as a softball player, teammate, and young lady,” Dave Grabowski said. “He has instilled confidence, determination and the value of teamwork in her. I am so grateful for his commitment to our daughter, team and community.”
The Atlanta Braves and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are teaming up to put a spotlight on local youth softball and baseball coaches who are making major positive impacts in their communities. Each week, voters elect a new winner. Once voted by their peers, each winner will receive a $100 Kroger gift card and a baseball signed by an Atlanta Braves player.
According to parent Bo Watson, it’s Burris’ ability to spark a love for the game that makes him stand out.
“Most importantly, coach Burris has made the girls fall in love with the game of softball,” he said. “All the girls want to keep playing, practicing and improving, especially my daughter. I just signed up my daughter for fall softball and training camp in July. Thank you, coach Burris, for your hard work and dedication to working with all the girls and pushing them to get better and better.”
Burris, a VMware product manager, is a North Springs High School graduate who learned a passion for sports while playing baseball and football at Sandy Springs Youth Sports. It is at Roswell Recreation that the Florida State University graduate puts that passion on display.
“I coach the 8U Crush at Roswell Recreation,” Burris told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We are a small program, but have been growing fast over the past three seasons. We have teams at 6U, 8U, 10U and 12U. We are very excited that we’ve tripled our registrations at 8U this season.”
Parent Melissa Smith echoed Watson’s high praise, noting that her daughter also has a newfound love for the game because of Burris.
“Josh has coached our daughter for the last year,” she said. “He loves what he does and he loves his team. He always motivates and encourages the girls to push themselves to be their best. He has shown the girls the importance of good sportsmanship and uses losses as a teaching opportunity. He most definitely deserves this award. He is a big part of the reason my daughter has fallen in love with softball.”
Burris most recently pushed his team to new heights, fielding an all-star team for the first time.
“We had our best season last spring, going 8-2 in the regular season,” he said. “We also fielded an all-star team for the first time and played in two tournaments at Sandy Springs and Murphy Candler. We held our own against the travel teams and were very competitive, pulling out a huge win against West Cobb.
“Watching these young girls develop a love for the game has been my favorite moment. They came together as a team and have developed incredible friendships and a passion for playing. I love watching how they support each other through good times and bad, always cheering, lifting each other up, and making huge plays when we needed them.”
Amanda Allie said she is forever grateful for Burris’ kindness and heart.
“Josh has been remarkable in his ability to build up his group 8U in softball, but more importantly sportsmanship and how to be a team player,” Allie said. “He has high expectations of his players but leads with kindness and heart — we are forever grateful for his leadership.”
It’s a life lesson Burris said he is determined to pass on to his players.
“Playing sports as a child was incredibly formative for me,” Burris said. “It taught me so many valuable lessons that I still use today, and my goal is to try and pass those on to our kids. We do our best to instill values like sportsmanship, teamwork, dedication and hard work while having fun and learning the game.”
Burris does not want to take all of the credit, however.
“We would not be anywhere close to where we are now without the support of our assistant coach, Valerie Forester,” he said. “She has been with me since the beginning and is a huge part of our success at Roswell.”
To parent Stacey Irvin, the impact Burris and Forester have had on her daughter is immeasurable.
“Josh and Val have been amazing for our daughter, who loves to play sports but has always struggled with crippling anxiety (clinically diagnosed with various associated difficulties) ...,” Irvin said. “We needed something to help Genevieve emerge from a year of extreme social distancing, and at Roswell there was only one 7U sport that had one spot left.”
For Irvin’s family, the nerves slowly started melting away once they became ingratiated with the team.
“We were really nervous ... coming out of a COVID year. We knew nothing about the sport, had zero equipment, and we knew no one since everyone lives in west Roswell (we live in east Roswell),” she said. “We quickly realized the entire team was made up of brand new families just like ours. We practiced and excitedly played. We lost a ton of games, but with each loss the team learned more (from the other teams who had clearly been playing for a while), and about halfway through the season, we started winning a few games.”
Once they started winning, Irvin said she realized there was something special going on with this new team and their loving coach.
“He has a special way of building up each girl, bringing out their individual talent that makes them feel like a vital part of the team (because they are), and then helping that talent to grow,” she said. “After each season, I’m amazed how the girls fit together and make plays like it’s second nature. He teaches the girls how to be coachable, too. He never tears a player down, or gets angry about mistakes, but he has this natural ability to connect with his players in such a way that he can point out a mistake and teach them how to correct it, and make them feel successful and empowered.
“Coaches like Josh and Val are diamonds in the rough. I can speak for a lot of softball families, but right now I just want to tell you why it is so incredibly important to me that we have positive, developmentally appropriate coaching … . The good that has come from the investment in my daughter as not only a softball player, but as a human being, is immeasurable.”
To any parents in the Roswell area, Burris said to let your children give softball a chance to affect their lives, as well.
“Give softball a chance!” he said. “Roswell softball has formed an incredibly tight community. We have the best parents and coaches anyone could ask for. Our kids have become incredibly close, forming friendships that extend beyond softball. The skills they have learned on the field have given them confidence in so many other areas of their lives. They are proud to be a part of a team and watching these girls support each other is nothing short of amazing.”