Expand your reach with School Satellite Clubs


Matt Crawshaw

In my second development case study of the off-season, I explore the potential of school satellite club programmes, which can help unlock key strategic partnerships for your baseball or softball club.


The prelude

Around 12 months ago, I arranged a Baseball and Softball Development Day in Leicester.  The purpose of the event was to meet with a range of prospective strategic partners who had expressed an interest in working with my club to expand the reach of baseball and softball in the city and county.

The event was co-ordinated with BaseballSoftballUK’s then Midlands Development Manager, Tom Mapp.  Over the past five years I have enjoyed a healthy working relationship with Tom and his predecessor Will Lintern.  Both have played a crucial role in seeking out development opportunities for my club and pointing me in the right direction to obtain the necessary funding to support our plans.

Tom and I had decided that in order for 2015 to be another successful year of club development, it would be beneficial to cement our plans early – preferably before the end of 2014.  So we met with Sarah Proud and Jo Hickman-Dunne, who were ‘Legacy Makers’ for Leicester City Council.  We learned more about how satellite clubs worked and the potential funding avenues available.

Prior to this meeting, Tom had worked closely with our County Sports Partnership (Leicester-Shire & Rutland Sport) to get softball added to the Sainsbury’s School Games programme for 2015, with the vision of Leicester Blue Sox hosting a county tournament for Key Stage 3 boys at Western Park.

We decided at the meeting that it would be beneficial to develop partnerships with city secondary schools, providing enhanced support in the lead-up to the summer softball finals.  Our longer-term aim was to identify talented youngsters from these schools and invite them to try out at our club’s youth baseball sessions.

Tom continued to work hard behind the scenes, canvassing city schools during the winter, to identify a shortlist of three secondary schools that would be prepared to become satellite clubs for Leicester Blue Sox.

Additionally, Tom was successful in securing funding through Leicester-Shire & Rutland Sport to provide the schools with a good standard of equipment and pay for coaches to visit the schools to deliver after-school sessions.

The programme

Everything then started to fall into place in April 2015.  I was designated to launch the initiative at each of the three schools.  The kids were great -- thankfully well-behaved and very coachable.  Most had previously played softball before (or other bat-and-ball sports) and I felt hopeful that one of the three schools would succeed at a forthcoming qualifier event and progress to the Super-Series final being hosted at Western Park in June.

The after-school clubs continued on a weekly basis and we were very fortunate to secure the services of Great Britain Baseball Coach Zach Graefser, who visited each of the three schools a few weeks before the Super-Series event.

Having such a high-profile coach visiting the schools created a lot of excitement and interest.  Leicester-Shire & Rutland Sport commissioned a camera crew to film Zach’s visit to Soar Valley College (one of the favourites to qualify for the Super-Series).  The footage was fashioned into a short documentary that has since been distributed to schools, local authorities and NGBs to highlight the benefits of school satellite clubs.

One of the biggest challenges we faced was the qualifying structure of the Super-Series tournament.  Only one school from the city district would qualify to compete against their fellow qualifiers from different districts across the county, and despite the enhanced support, none of the schools we worked with qualified for the Super-Series.  I understand that Soar Valley was pipped at the post in the qualifying final by Crown Hills Community College.

With all three schools eliminated via the preliminaries, the teachers and schoolchildren understandably started to lose interest in the satellite club sessions.  On the other hand, our club then started to receive emails from a number of other schools from around the county that had progressed from their qualifier asking for support, which unfortunately we couldn’t help with at such short notice.

The tournament

And so to the 2015 Leicestershire School Games Softball Super-Series, which was held on a perfect summer’s evening at Western Park.  The generous space at our baseball field was converted into three softball diamonds, on which eight secondary school teams battled to be the inaugural county softball champion.

The standard of play was very high, especially on the part of those teams that had progressed via a preliminary qualifying round.  After two hours of round-robins and semi-finals, we were ready for the final between Crown Hills and Lutterworth High School.

It was Crown Hills who were the ultimate victors, which was a double celebration for them, as they had also won the County rounders final earlier in the same week.

Overall, our first year of school satellite clubs has been a rewarding experience.   It has enabled our club to start building some key strategic alliances, which we hope will see more kids continue playing baseball and softball, whether that be in the school environment, at a college or university, or in a club setting such as our own.

I would thoroughly recommend satellite clubs to any baseball or softball club that is interested in youth development and in building stronger ties with local schools.

Anyone who is interested in exploring this concept should contact their local BaseballSoftballUK Point Person in the first instance.

Satellite Club tips

  • Plan early!  Our Super-Series event was scheduled for June 2015 but our first pre-planning meeting was held in November 2014.
  • Think about your objectives.  What would you like to achieve by the end of the initiative?
  • What resource is required?  Coaches?  Equipment?  Planning early will give you enough time to apply for local funding pots, such as Sportivate.
  • Involve BaseballSoftballUK at the earliest opportunity and use their expertise in canvassing schools and co-ordinating events such as the Schools Games with your County Sports Partnership.
  • Work closely with your local County Sports Partnership.  I have found them to be very supportive and they have already contacted me about hosting next year’s Super-Series, plus building on the work achieved in our first year of school satellite clubs.
  • Both teeball and softball are mandated the Sainsbury’s School Games programme, which means schools in your area are playing these sports.  I’m sure they would be delighted to hear from your club.

tagged under: club development, clubs, youth, schools

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About Matt Crawshaw

Matt Crawshaw

Matt has been involved with British Baseball since 2008.  He is the British Baseball Federation’s Southern Youth League Commissioner and works closely with BaseballSoftballUK’s National Development Manager Will Lintern to grow youth participation across the country.  He is also Chairperson and a Junior Baseball Coach at Leicester Blue Sox Baseball Club.  Matt primarily coaches Under-9 and Under-14 age groups both at the club and in local schools.

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