Matt Crawshaw and Brendan Cunliffe nominated for sports coach UK awards
Fri 5 Oct 2012
Leicester Blue Sox Baseball Club Chairman and Coach Matt Crawshaw, and BSUK's Development Logistics Manager Brendan Cunliffe, who has been the pitching coach at Academy Baseball since 2010, have both been nominated for 2012 UK Coaching Awards that are presented each year by sports coach UK.
The UK Coaching Awards, which are given in various categories, provide the opportunity to thank coaches and coaching organisations for their dedication and to recognise their achievements.
The awards will be presented at a glittering event at The Lancaster in London on the evening of Tuesday 20 November 2012.
Matt Crawshaw has been nominated for the Gillette Community Coach of the Year Award.
This award recognises the outstanding contribution of a coach to getting more people starting, staying and/or succeeding in sport through high-quality coaching.
As the Chairman and Coach of the Leicester Blue Sox Baseball Club, Matt has spent the past 12 months transforming the organisation from a two-team adult baseball club into a vibrant organisation that now offers diverse playing opportunities for men, women and children in Leicester. Having accessed funding through Sport England's Small Grants programme, Matt coordinated and coached two community outreach programmes. An adult softball programme called The Softball Academy was run indoors and focused on getting new players into the sports of baseball and softball. A particular emphasis was placed on increasing female participation, and a partnership with the local softball team Leicester Royals helped Matt and the Leicester Blue Sox run a successful programme.
In February 2012, Matt used the remaining funds from the Sport England Small Grant to start a youth baseball programme for the Leicester Blue Sox, a new venture for the club and something that was vital for maintaining its long-term sustainability now that the club had received Clubmark accreditation.
The programme, called the Youth Baseball Academy, began with just eight players, not even enough to field a baseball team. However, through the use of social media and, crucially, word of mouth from players and parents, news quickly spread – not only about the fun of playing baseball but also the quality of the coaching on offer.
Matt continued to pursue his dream of having a fully functional local youth baseball league of the type that has recently been developed in Hemel Hempstead, Horsham and Cartmel Valley, and his work eventually paid off when he organised a Youth baseball Festival on the first weekend in September. Of the five teams competing, three had come from the Leicester Blue Sox organisation as a direct result of the Youth Baseball Academy, then only six months old. It had been a very long time since youth baseball had been played on this scale in the Midlands, and the feedback from parents and participants alike has already led to plans to make the 2013 Festival even bigger and better.
A full report on the Leicester Youth Baseball Festival can be found on British Baseball Federation website.
Brendan Cunliffe has been nominated for the Performance Development Coach of the Year Award.
This award recognises the achievements of a coach in developing emerging and young performers in sport.
Brendan has been the Pitching Coach at Academy Baseball since 2010. Academy Baseball is the premier training environment for young baseball players in the UK and is run by BaseballSoftballUK with support from Major League Baseball.
In his role as Pitching Coach, Brendan is required to work with all ages and abilities as Academy Baseball is open to anyone aged 10-25. However, during the past 12 months, Brendan has had the most influence and success with two players in the Under-19 age group, Jordan Edmonds and Ben Powell.
Jordan has been in the Academy and GB National Team programmes since 2008 when he was just 13, but Ben is in his first year of baseball as a convert from County cricket. Both players are remarkable athletes, but their different backgrounds proved a challenge for Brendan as he had to develop different training and performance guidelines for each player. What made it harder for Brendan and the two players is that the Academy only has enough funds to run six national practices and four regional practices each off-season, which meant that Brendan had to use those rare coaching opportunities to check in with the players, monitor their progress and work with them to ensure they could manage their workloads independently of their club environment.
Brendan worked with the Academy's Strength and Conditioning Coach and GB Under-19 Head Coach Will Lintern to monitor the progress of each athlete and adapt training programmes to their individual needs.
The results speak for themselves. Both Ben and Jordan were selected to the GB Under-19 Baseball Team this year, a feat even more astounding when considering that Ben had been only playing baseball for six months when the selection was made.
Separately, Jordan was selected to the MLB European Academy, a training camp for the best 45-50 young players in Europe, marking the first time a British player had been selected since 2008.
Ben Powell, after making his debut as a pitcher for the GB Juniors at the 2012 European Qualifiers, later helped his adult club gain a National Championship when he earned the win as a pitcher in the Single A Final.
Brendan has helped both these athletes develop their potential despite the fact that baseball receives no money for talent development or elite performance and the players are self-funded by their families, while Brendan volunteers his time to Jordan, Ben and countless other talented young baseball players in the UK.