A look into the futureā€¦.


Chris Rawlings

As 2015 comes to an end and I start looking to the future, I’m wondering what sort of year 2016 will be.

There are some big things on the horizon: Rio and the Olympic and Paralympic Games (is it really four years since London?); Euro 2016 (will English football finally be coming home?); Juno arriving at Jupiter (how does it know where to find it?); my two sons continuing to get taller (by eating even more food); and we will finally get polymer bank notes in England (Australia had theirs in 1988!).

A New Year -- and the only thing that is truly guaranteed is that it will be a time of change (again!), particularly for our work at BaseballSoftballUK.

There will be new strategies emerging from both the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and its offspring Sport England, and I think we were all surprised that government budgets for community and elite sports appear to be maintained at current levels until 2020 (although cuts to Council budgets will felt by grassroots sport).  There is also likely to be a new organisational structure for the development of baseball and softball in the UK.  With these changes will come both threats and opportunities.  The scary part at the moment is that with so many variables and unknowns, we are not quite certain what they might be or when they might present themselves.

However, I do believe that we are ready to adapt to changes and opportunities to expand the reach of baseball and softball in this country.  Many of our current approaches to increasing participation align with the messages and rhetoric coming from the major sports sector funders.  Gone, I think, are the days of organisations getting money purely to increase or even maintain the number of people playing their sport.  For one thing, it can be extremely difficult to measure growth; and for sports like baseball and softball, it can be a hard sell.  Put it this way: we do not (yet) seem to have queues of people outside our offices asking to play our sports, nice though that would be.

Hit the Pitch

Having developed our Hit the Pitch programme over the past 18 months, we now have a nationwide, structured and yet adaptable development programme that speaks to wider outcomes.  Our approach to companies to establish teams and leagues that can help them with staff welfare and retention, improved internal communications and health outcomes has paid and will continue to pay dividends.  Partners such as Carluccio’s, SEGRO and London Sport see the value of our sports in achieving other soft outcomes, including building relationships in their organisations and sectors.

Our Higher Education offer looks at student experience and at integrating international students, while our community offer speaks to cohesion, equality and inclusion. You begin to get the picture….

For those of you in the core of our playing communities, it’s not that these new participants don’t see themselves as players; it’s just that their motivations for playing are different.  This doesn't make them any less significant -- and in the eyes of government and funders, they are a testament to the success of our efforts to reach new people by being responsive to changing lifestyles and circumstances.

I suspect that if established players look back at their own reasons for starting out to play, it will have been for a wide variety of motivations, including chasing a new relationship, being with mates, finding new mates or trying to impress someone at work as well as loving being outside with a glove, bat and ball.  “Priceless”, as the adverts would have us believe.

Our development work might seem a little strange or quirky at times, but I think this gives us an advantage when it comes to change and adaptation.  Our ability to establish new relationships across a wide variety of sectors will help in this time of change, uncomfortable as it may seem, and allow us to explore opportunities to expand our reach and profile when they do finally present themselves.

If anyone sees one before I do, or wants to help create one, then please get in touch….

tagged under: development, bsuk staff, olympics, hit the pitch

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