#ThisGirlCan – why fastpitch softball can be an important add-on to your club

16
Feb

Matt Crawshaw


When Sport England launched its #ThisGirlCan campaign around 12 months ago, it signalled a statement of intent to get more women and girls playing sport in this country.

About two years before, Leicester Blue Sox had anticipated this vision when we started our own women and girls’ section at the club, with a primary focus on developing fastpitch softball.

The precursor to this initiative was the 2012 ‘Battle of the Shires’ tournament, the first of its kind in the UK, which saw all three codes of the sports being played in a Leicestershire v Nottinghamshire county championship.  This was the first time many players in our region had played an organised fastpitch game, at least in this country, and it inspired the creation of an informal East Midlands Fastpitch League under the stewardship of Paul Cooper.
 

Getting started

In our first season, the Blue Sox adopted a scatter-gun approach to recruitment, reaching out to family and friends of our existing baseball members and to established slowpitch players, as well as picking a few newbies along the way.

The creation of a female membership section at our club was a breath of fresh air, bringing much-needed diversity and new ideas to a traditionally male-dominated organisation.  We now have four women in our Committee and Coaches Group.

It also enhanced our family-friendly appeal, attracting parents and children to both suit up for the club.  This was especially true for our teeball programme, which started to grow rapidly over the same period.

The missing link for us going into 2014 was the lack of junior girls at our club.  So with the help of funding procured from Sport England and BaseballSoftballUK, we targeting recruitment at this age group, with some astonishing results.


Junior girls

As we moved into 2015, a trio of junior girls emerged as the most dedicated softball players at the club.  This has been a blessing as well as a challenge: each of our girls has embraced the Great Britain Fastpitch League as the way to enhance their development, whereas the more casually-minded adult women saw the long travel to Farnham Park as less appealing, leading to a drop-off in members.  With limited local fastpitch fixtures and a decline in the number of players, we have needed to re-think our club strategy.

Moving into 2016, two of our junior girls have been selected for the BSUK High Performance Academy and are now knocking on the door of the Great Britain National Teams programme.  Given their respective ages, they are daring to dream about the potential Olympic reinstatement of fastpitch in 2020.  If softball is included in the Tokyo Games, this will be a huge boost for fastpitch in this country, and both baseball and slowpitch clubs need to be ready for an increase in demand across all codes of the sport.


 

New approach

This year, we will be re-inventing our approach to grassroots softball by launching a Blue Sox co-ed slowpitch league.  It is hoped that this will lead to greater collaboration between our male and female members, and that casuals and beginners will be made to feel more included, with better retention of new players.  Going into our club’s 10th anniversary year, we hope 2016 will be our best season yet!

We’d like to thank the following coaches who have supported the development of our women and girls’ programme -- without you, none of this would have been possible!  They are:

• Paul Cooper
• Giovanni Ciotti
• Hedda Meijer
• Katy Austin
• Megan Brown
• Kim Hannessen
• Damian Holland
• Alexis Markham-Hill

If you are interested in adding fastpitch softball to your club’s programming, please get in touch with your local BSUK Point Person in the first instance.

This Girl Can … play softball!

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About Matt Crawshaw

Matt Crawshaw

Matt has been involved with British Baseball since 2008.  He is the British Baseball Federation’s Southern Youth League Commissioner and works closely with BaseballSoftballUK’s National Development Manager Will Lintern to grow youth participation across the country.  He is also Chairperson and a Junior Baseball Coach at Leicester Blue Sox Baseball Club.  Matt primarily coaches Under-9 and Under-14 age groups both at the club and in local schools.

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