BSUK Club Spotlight: The Chichester Falcons

Wed 1 Nov 2017

By Luke Stott

In the latest edition of BSUK Spotlight, the Chichester Falcons tell us how their club was founded in surprising circumstances, their youth movement, and their famous spectators…

“I was having an MRI scan on my shoulder and the doctor found out it was caused by overthrowing a softball,” David Morris, chair of the Chichester Falcons Softball Club, tells me. It’s an auspicious start to the club’s origin story.

“He said that the x-ray department had a team entered into an inter-department softball tournament put on by the hospital, and asked if James (Wheeler) and I could coach them.  We agreed and their team won the tournament.  A lot of the players wanted to keep playing so James continued coaching them weekly, then others joined in, so we decided to form a club.  Many of the hospital staff still play in the team.”

That club plays in the city of Chichester; almost encircled by the very definition of a ring road, it’s 20 minutes from Bognor Regis and on a good day you can make it to the Goodwood Motor Circuit in less than 10. The club’s training sessions take place at Oaklands Park near to the university, whose own team is closely linked to the Falcons and near the famous Chichester festival theatre, “we often have famous actors watching our games from the theatre benches; most recently Ian McKellen and Lenny Henry,” David tells me.

Named after the peregrine falcons that still nest in the city Cathedral’s tower, the club has around 40 adults playing slowpitch softball and men’s fastpitch. In addition, there are some 20 juniors aged between 11 and 16 who play coed fastpitch and a handful of teeball players aged 7 to 10 years old.

Those players, both young and old, come under the purview of head coach James Wheeler whose relentless enthusiasm and vast experience are real assets to the team. More recently, Jason Mercer has taken on the role of tournament captain, allowing the club to participate in more tournaments than ever before, which has had the added effect of speeding up the development progress of some of the club’s fringe players. The Indoor league that the club runs has also proved very beneficial in bringing players along.

This hard work in player development has paid off and the club can count victory in the 2015 Tom Prince Indoor tournament and silver in the BSF Nationals as two major achievements of recent years. Perhaps an even greater testament to player development is the fact that the club boasted two juniors playing for Great Britain in two different age groups (U-13 girls and U-19 boys) this year.

Ever eager to develop the club, David and his committee have worked extensively with BSUK Development Manager for the Southeast Patrick Knock, “We have worked with BSUK right from the start, “ said David. “They have helped a lot with equipment particularly and [Patrick] helped to put together a successful proposal for a grant from Sport England to start up our juniors club in 2014, and also funded our teeball gloves.”

“We have had four coaches attend BSUK coaching courses and Level 1 and 2, and we continue to work with BSUK at the Academy, South East University League and several other activities.”

Not keen to rest on their laurels, the club has big plans for the future. From continuing to develop their youth activities and grow the junior and teeball sections further to running another ‘rookie night’ with the hope of recruiting well enough to field two senior teams next season. Great facilities are always a major aspiration and the Falcons are about to install a backstop, Astroturf batting area and base anchors to their field after investment by the District Council.

With a club so focused on the future, both on and off the field, it’s hard to imagine the famous theatrical element to the club’s fanbase having to find something else to watch anytime soon.

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