Baseball and Softball gain talent development funding

Wed 13 Nov 2013

For the first time, BaseballSoftballUK will be receiving funds from Sport England during the 2013-17 funding cycle specifically for “talent development”, to help players progress on the English Talent Pathway with a view to achieving national team selection and international success.

BaseballSoftballUK has received significant funding from Sport England since 2009 to develop the sports at grassroots level through a mechanism known as the Whole Sport Plan.  The idea is that a sport draws up a plan that tells Sport England what kinds of programmes it wants to run across the whole sport, from children and beginners to elite athletes, plus coaching, officiating, facility development etc, and then Sport England decides which of those programmes it will fund and awards money accordingly.

In the first round of Whole Sport Plan funding received by BSUK, from 2009-13, funds were awarded for objectives that focused on increasing participation.

In the run-up to the submission of the Whole Sport plan for baseball and softball for the 2013-17 funding period, BSUK made the case to Sport England that Talent funding was needed.  Specifically, BSUK addressed Sport England's twin-track rationale of supporting and developing the elite few to progress along the English talent pathway, and creating an environment where every player has the opportunity to be the best that they can be, thus aiding satisfaction and retention within the sport.

Sport England supported this statement, and awarded BSUK £100,000 over the four year funding cycle 2013-17.  While this is small in terms of an annual budget, it is hoped that the funding will prove a valuable means of creating special opportunities for the most talented young players to develop their skills and increase their chances of national team selection and success in international competition.


The talent development programme that will be constructed using Sport England's money will be managed by BSUK, and is under the direction of BSUK National Development Manager Will Lintern.  Will has already had consultations with people from the BBF Board, the BSF Executive and the softball GB Management Committee, and more discussions are currently being held to determine exactly what kind of programme will be set up for each sport and how the available funds will be spent.

Based on Sport England specifications, and related to the fact that women's fastpitch softball was the Olympic format of the sport, talent development funds for softball can only be spent on female fastpitch athletes.

The 2014 programme will consist of a pilot.  While many details remain to be ironed out, the basic shape of the talent development programme for 2014 will be:

  • An opening and closing weekend camp for selected  athletes, coaches and athletes' parents.  These will be used to introduce the new programme, set goals and targets and, crucially, evaluate the athletes' progress at the conclusion of the pilot.
  • Indoor regional practices will be run in two venues (one for baseball and one for fastpitch).  The frequency of practices will be determined by the needs of the athletes.
  • A residential training camp over the Easter holidays in 2014 for a larger number of promising players in terms of age and geographical spread.
  • Two to four fastpitch and baseball coaches attending a minimum of two CPD coaching workshops, clinics or competition experiences during the period.

The winter of 2014-15 will see a larger roll-out of the programme, with a training programme run from November to April and, potentially, additional training venues.

Launch date

The talent development programme for both sports will be launched on Saturday 11 January (venue and details TBC) and the programme for 2014 will close with joint competition and training events over the weekend of 13-14 April.

In between those dates, training sessions for small groups of talented young players will be run for each sport according to its needs.

With so little funding and so much to do to raise performance levels among young UK-based GB players, the talent development programme will inevitably start with limited objectives.  But it is definitely a step in the right direction, and the hope has to be that if we can demonstrate success in running the programme, Sport England might be persuaded to increase its investment in the next funding round.

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