READ: Thoughts on a new Strategic direction


John Walmsley

BaseballSoftballUK’s former Board Chair (2011-17) John Walmsley shares his views on the new Strategic vision for the sports of baseball and softball. 

All in all, I applaud the present board’s vision and their commitment to continue to grow the sports in concert with the British Softball and British Baseball Federation’s engaged leaderships.

I recognise a lot of the 2020-2024 Strategy’s content (read the Strategy here) and see it as an evolution rather than a revolution of the strategy I helped shape as BSUK Chair from 2011-2017. I think that’s right, not because I’m precious about the work I did, but because, having helped the “Played in Every Park” strategy to be created, the board periodically would come back to test if the strategy remained the right one to follow

On youth and children, creating a life-long sporting habit is a boon in itself. And there is a very long-term, generational even, benefit to be had that might not be fully revealed until 20-30 years have passed - certainly longer than over which any strategy’s performance or impact will be measured.

What I feel is needed, remains the pathway connection from school to club. By which, a child playing our sports in a school setting and enjoying the experience is then able to take the next step and find a local club and continue their playing activity, most likely across the long summer school holidays. There is also scope to engage other organisations who support active childhood – perhaps the Scouts and Guides organisations, or Boys and Girls Brigades, as well through local youth workers, religious and youth clubs in both urban and rural areas.

Helping improve the quality of facilities, guidance on building and maintaining them, and being a broker or sign-poster to equipment and materials is a key role for the organisation. Individual clubs, and volunteers working their spare time to find 10-12 friends to also play, let alone trying to source the right bats, gloves, ball, bases, etc., need all the help they can get to remove as many barriers to entry to the sports. There are few “jumpers for goalposts” opportunities in baseball and softball, but a reasonable and enjoyable playing experience can be had for some small effort, with aid from BSUK.

There are 65 million people in the UK. There are scant tens of thousands who currently play our sports. I know where I’d focus my energies to enthuse and mobilise a next generation of ball players. I still yearn for a day when the three organisations find a way to combine their talents and strengths, but for now BSUK represents what is best in our sports and is the standard bearer and beacon for a brighter future.

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About John Walmsley

John Walmsley

John was chair of BaseballSoftballUK from 2011 to 2017, a non-executive directorship. He is a past-secretary of the British Baseball Federation (2007-09) and past-president at Richmond Baseball and Softball Club (2006-10), in Surrey. John enjoys coaching and developing people, both in sport and in business. John and his partner Robyn split their time between Surrey and Lancashire. John is an executive with a global consulting and technology company, where he focuses on the commercial management of large-scale engagements.

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