BSUK development work picks up speed in the South East

Mon 22 Apr 2013

BaseballSoftballUK's development work is picking up speed in the South East as the new baseball and softball season gets under way.  Hit the Pitch university and college programmes, Swing By programmes in leisure centres and schools sessions will be taking place in counties across the region.

Hit the Pitch

In Buckinghamshire, through funding from the County Sport Partnership Bucks & Milton Keynes Sport, three separate programmes have recently been delivered in the county.

As featured on the BSUK website, Buckingham University has successfully established a new university softball club, the Buckballas, as a result of an eight-week Hit the Pitch programme.  Similarly, Milton Keynes College students have been participating in the sport at their indoor sports hall on the Bletchley campus, following Hit the Pitch logodelivery of Young Leaders Awards in autumn 2012.

Also benefiting from the Hit the Pitch programme is Amersham & Wycombe College in High Wycombe, with sessions delivered by BSUK Coach Sam Bottom (who is also the University Softball Officer at Bucks New University).

Meanwhile, at Brighton University, sports development staff member Kirsty McCoubrey has been working with BSUK South East Regional Development Manager Patrick Knock to deliver Hit the Pitch softball taster sessions ahead of a longer-term programme due to start this week on campus.

Initial sessions helped generate a core group and two keen students in particular, who will now be working with Kirsty as University Softball Officers to help promote sessions, utilise social media to publicise the sport and encourage fellow students and friends to get involved.

This project work has also been greatly aided by the local Brighton Softball League.  GB Slowpitch Squad player Ben Taylor from the league has coached the sessions and will continue to do so in the second phase of the project. The aim is to establish club links so that students can continue playing in the league throughout the summer.

Swing By in Chichester

BSUK is continuing to work closely with Freedom Leisure and Active Sussex, and secured funding to roll out its leisure centre programme, Swing By, at Six Villages Sports Centre in Westergate near Chichester.  Swing By logoThe local team Chichester Falcons showed great enthusiasm and support, providing Swing By activators to deliver eight sessions indoors at the centre during February and March.

These fun and social softball sessions provided a new and accessible sport for the local community and also allowed Falcons' members to continue playing throughout the winter months. Of particular note is that activators James Clarke and David Morris from the Falcons adapted the sessions to include a blind participant, Satoshi Tada, again highlighting the inclusive nature of the Swing By softball sessions.

James Clarke said, "We were proud to be involved with running the Swing By sessions in Chichester.  The wide range of ability among the participants provided the Falcons coaches with a challenging experience which culminated in fast-moving and entertaining softball.  Everybody worked hard and nobody missed out in a season of sessions where beginners learned softball fundamentals, intermediate players improved and advanced players enjoyed a chance to take in some decent practice while passing on their knowledge. Group Shot Some of the participants have been truly bitten and are joining the Falcons for their second season in the Solent Softball League.”

Discussions are ongoing between Patrick Knock and Freedom Leisure staff to continue Swing By, not only in Chichester and Burgess Hill, but more widely across Sussex, with potential programmes on the horizon in Brighton and Crawley.


Through having a presence at the County School Games meetings and a showcase game in July 2012, softball is now an official Level 3 sport in the 2013 Berkshire School Games.

Patrick Knock has been working with the Slough School Sport Network's School Games Organiser, Laura Goodall, who has now secured Sportivate funding to run Hit the Pitch programmeBerkshire Logos with five different schools in the district.  This will prepare the students and develop the Sixth Forms ahead of the Level 3 county-wide event in July, and there is a possibility that a Level 2 event on a district basis can take place as well.

Due to Slough's proximity to Farnham Park, where BSUK has created purpose-built baseball and softball diamonds that should come into play this summer, this represents an important piece of development work – not only to help increase awareness of the sport in general, but of Farnham Park as a new hub of activity, along with local clubs such as Richings Park Softball Club and other teams within the Windsor & Maidenhead District Softball League.

BSUK Development Officer and Softball Programmes Manager Stan Doney will be part of the coaching delivery team going into the schools in Slough, and there are additional plans for teacher training and equipment purchase to help ensure sustainability of softball within the five schools.

Laura Goodall is delighted to see softball programmes running in her schools.  She said, "Softball is new to the Berkshire School Games this year and as a network, we thought a Sportivate softball project would really help to enthuse Slough schools ahead of the event.  Slough LogoFive schools in Slough are part of a Hit the Pitch Sportivate softball programme which starts this April and will run for six weeks.  BaseballSoftballUK has been instrumental in supporting this bid through helping to organise coaches for delivery of sessions and also in terms of helping us source the right equipment.

“The schools involved in the programme will each receive a Sports Leaders UK softball course to enable the delivery of softball in their schools once the project has come to an end,” Laura continued.  “Slough schools are also well placed in terms of their school-club links with the sport –  we are lucky to have two softball clubs close to the Slough area, making this project ideal for the transition of young people into further activity.

“The School Games event in early July will be a great way for students in Sixth Form and across KS4 to showcase their new-found skills and confidence against other schools in Berkshire," Laura added.

Building blocks

Patrick Knock said: “It's very pleasing to see a wide range of work taking place following the winter planning stage.  The aim is to build up activity in South East counties so that our programmes link with clubs and leagues and the sports have a better chance of growing. 

“Hit the Pitch, Swing By and schools work is crucial to this happening, and we'll be rolling out more programmes in the summer.”

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