BSUK’s work with the LGBT community pays dividends in participation
Mon 3 Apr 2017
Softball in the UK has a long history of being a welcoming and inclusive sport for members of the LGBT community, and this is supported by a survey carried out by BaseballSoftballUK in 2016, which suggested that 14% of softball players identify as LGBT, compared to roughly 8% of the population as a whole.
LGBT players are spread throughout our regular playing community of more than 24,000 in cities and towns around the UK.
While BSUK’s direct work with the LGBT community takes place primarily in London and Manchester, there are plans to widen the scope of our work through the creation of a national LGBT Advisory Panel.
In London, BSUK provides direct support for the London Raiders, a predominantly LGBT softball club founded in 1994, whose members range from experienced to brand new players and whose teams run the gamut from competitive to recreational.
The Raiders march annually to represent softball at London Pride events.
The Raiders have grown to over 130 members, and emphasis within the club is as much on fun and socialising as a community as it is on playing softball. In addition to softball training and games, a wide range of social events are on offer, including a pre-season Meet the Raiders get-together aimed at new participants.
Photos covering a range of on-field and off-field Raiders’ activities can be found on: https://www.londonraiders.co.uk/gallery.
The club enters teams in the Greater London Softball Mixed League at B, C, and D-grade levels. The Raiders also enter teams into a range of tournaments throughout the UK and abroad, run a development squad for new players and regularly train on weekends.
Raiders player Matt McSherry says, “I was never picked for sports as a kid and would class myself ‘team sports phobic’ before I met the Raiders. Being encouraged, trained and challenged in a sporting environment where my sexuality isn’t a reason for derision or exclusion has shown me that I’m actually not bad at sports in general and now I positively enjoy playing. If I could travel back in time and show myself as a kid what I do now in sports, I think it would have helped to improve my confidence, fitness and social abilities.”
Here are two videos made by the Raiders to explain what the club and the sport are all about:
BSUK has been working with Pride Sports (http://www.pridesports.org.uk) in Manchester for over four years, and the two organisations have brought softball to the LGBT community through local events such as LGBT History Month softball sessions, Pride Games and Sports May.
More recently, Pride Sports and BSUK have contributed to the formation of two new teams now playing in the Manchester Softball League: Phoenix and Dangerous Tractors.
This will be the third year that BSUK will be running the LGBT Charity Softball Tournament in partnership with Pride Sports. The tournament grew from six teams in 2015 to nine in 2016, and 2017 should be the best year yet, with more funds raised for charity.
All co-ed slowpitch softball teams at C-grade or D-grade are welcome to enter, as well as teams with no experience at all, as guidance will be available throughout the day. Staff networks, businesses and clubs are encouraged to grab 10 or more mates and come along ready to play.
BSUK will provide all equipment necessary for new teams, and fundraising activities will be organised throughout the day for the charity chosen for 2017 by Pride Sport.
LGBT Advisory Panel
Early in 2017, BSUK looked at the concept of forming an LGBT Advisory Panel, and in March, applications were requested from the baseball and softball community as well as from any other interested people.
The purpose of the LGBT Advisory Panel will be to set the strategy for BSUK's LGBT work and to monitor and evaluate BSUK's effectiveness in delivering this strategy. In addition, the panel will help to draft relevant policy to allow BSUK to better promote and deliver this work.
The Panel will engage more people from the baseball and softball communities in the development of the sports for LGBT participants, and will report to the BSUK Board.
Applications for the panel have been received and the first meeting of the newly-formed group is expected to be in mid-April.