Hit the Pitch comes to life

08
Dec

Chris Rawlings

Hit the Pitch Logo“We need a new participation programme,” says the Head of Development, “something that will really get baseball and softball in front of new participants in an engaging way.”

“Where do I start?” I think.  I hear the messages about insight and being customer-centric – but what does that mean and how do I start building the best development programme BSUK has ever produced (and there have been a few!)?

After a comprehensive review of the programmes we have, we decide to rationalise all of our existing development programmes into one and call it 'Hit the Pitch'.  It will be a holistic programme aimed at getting new participations into our sports, with content and marketing tailored to particular target groups.

Making sense

With guidance from Head of Development John Boyd and commercial advisor Tom Godfrey, the concept of Day, Team and League emerges and makes complete sense – but the insight and customer-centricity bits still need to be resolved in my mind.  A couple of seminal moments later – one at Exeter Services with Holly Woodford, former Development Director at England Hockey, and one in the BSUK office with Lisa West from Sport Structures – and I think I have an idea of what we need to do and how to go about it.

With target markets of companies, culture and leisure trusts, universities, colleges, schools, community groups, clubs and leagues established, we begin the process of setting out the next steps: what needs doing and who needs to be involved.  In true sports development style, a plan is written in Word; only later would I realise how right Lisa West would be about the usefulness of Gantt charts.  This process has been a learning curve at every step!  The scale of what we need to achieve begins to dawn on me –and of course everything needs doing yesterday.

We break the process into numerous key areas and begin to set out what needs developing: resources, resources that sit behind the resources, financial models, marcomms, playing membership, IT systems, branding and design, partnership agreements, equipment, organisers' packs….  The list is endless and growing everyone time we think of something else to add.  However, I have a really sound framework to work through and a fantastic person in Lisa to make things simple and keep us focused.  How does she always seem to be one step ahead?

Going MAD

Then I get another revealing moment courtesy of a day of “Going Mad” with Lisa Janson in London.  One of the facets of Go MAD – the Art of Making a Difference, a system to help people think in a solution-focused way, is about engagement triangles, and the dawning realisation that most of my colleagues have no idea of what I am working on.  I need a determined focus to rectify this and soon.  So with a concerted effort on leading rather than doing, the next few weeks are spent putting much of the content together, and it feels like we are making good progress.  Tenders are written and circulated in the hope that someone will help us with some key parts of the process: supplying equipment, design and branding to name just a couple.

Soft launch

After a few days off at half term, I come back to pick things up again and find that a date has been set for a soft launch.  Panic sets in – a launch!  Maybe a partner and stakeholder engagement event would be easier to comprehend – a chance to talk through our plans and begin to get the message out through our networks.  It certainly sounds more manageable in the time frame than a launch.  But the date is set for 1 December in London – just hope our offices will cope with the number of people attending!

One of the things that we will definitely need is a new brand and design feel for the Hit the Pitch programme, and so we set Jules, an ex-softballer with his own design company, off and running from his offices in Exeter.  After much to-ing and fro-ing of ideas between John Boyd, Jules and myself, we think we have a plan for a new logo.

A good couple of days at The Belfry with colleagues from other NGBs and Sport England are interspersed with covert glimpses of the next iteration.  We share it with a few trusted and respected people at the conference – all seems settled.  Until, that is, John says, “I’ll just share it with staff in the office for comment.”  The walls of the office are soon covered in variations of font, colour scheme, images.  Questions like “how does it speak to you?” are asked.  Some questions marks are sown in John’s head – and back we go to Jules in Exeter for further work.  Version 24 (seems like 124!) is sent through around 4.00 pm on Friday – we think we have it nailed.

Responses are coming back for the stakeholders' engagement event (sounds much better than a launch!) and it looks like there are lots of people who want be part of it.  Great – especially since all we told them is that we have some news to share – oh, and there will be a drinks reception!  Much hard work still to do to finalise some resources that we need for the event – banners, brochures, case studies …. oh, and must remember to order the food and nibbles.

BaseballSoftballUK Hit The Pitch Engagement Event Image

On the night

December 1 comes round and I set off for London in the hope that First Great Western is on form today and will get me into Paddington on time.  Only 35 minutes late today (an improvement for FGW), and so I arrive at the office just after 9.00 am.  All seems calm, everything under control.  Name badges made, rooms re-designed – just the resources to collect and the food to arrive.  Banners are collected from around the corner (they look great) and so I set off to get the case studies from printers just off Oxford Street.  Good use of resource to get the bloke from rural Somerset to try and find somewhere in Central London!  A couple of calls to the office and I manage to find it and collect – much to the amusement of my London-centric colleagues.  Only the food to arrive now – all ordered weeks ago.

John and I go through last-minute preparations for the event and all seems fine apart from a couple of techy glitches with the videos – and the food.  After several conversations with Waitrose, it appears that our food has been near the office, an hour from the office, on the van in central London and somehow now back at their depot.  Mark rallies the troops and with lists in hand, BSUK staffers Jen, Liz, Patrick, Tim et al hot-foot it to the shops nearby and come back armed with food and drink for our guests – the first of which were to arrive in 10 minutes.  Disaster avoided thanks to some cool and calm decision-making!

Guests begin to arrive and there is a positive vibe in the room, lots of discussion about what the news was going to be and whether to go for the salsa or guacamole dips.  We gather in the conference room and the unveiling begins.  All is fine and the presentations from John, Paul and myself go well and to plan.  Paul Lewis from SEGRO, who own and manage the Slough Trading Estate and are setting up a softball league next summer for their clients, does a fantastic job in bringing our news to life – I couldn’t have scripted what he said any better.  More refreshments and chatter about Hit the Pitch and all things baseball and softball – a good evening all round.

Guests and colleagues begin to drift off into the cool London night and the staff gather for a quick drink and assessment.  A good evening, a great team effort all round – and then the realisation on the train back to Somerset that there is still so much to do to make Hit the Pitch our best development programme ever….

tagged under: baseball, softball, development, team, company, university, league, day, club, hit the pitch

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About Chris Rawlings

Chris Rawlings

Chris has been with BaseballSoftballUK as National Development Manager since April 2011, and is responsible for growing the participation of baseball and softball into new markets. Prior to this, Chris was regional manager for the Youth Sport Trust in the South West and also worked in the Sports Development Team at Bath & North East Somerset. Despite the name, Chris has no known connection with the famous Sporting Goods company (other brands are available) but does have a strong affinity with the early days of baseball in the UK. Chris’s grandad and father were born and raised 100 yards from the Baseball Ground in Derby !  Chris lives in the Somerset countryside with wife Sally and his two boys James 14 and William 12.

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