Posted on 16 June 2011.
BSUK National Club Development Manager Paul Wilkinson explains what BSUK has been doing to grow and develop baseball in the northern part of England:
The BaseballSoftballUK Development Department has carried out extensive work with baseball clubs and leagues across the country over the past few years since becoming the development agency for the two sports — and BSUK has worked particularly hard in the North.
An important change in how BSUK engages with baseball clubs has taken place, with a club-centric approach that has seen baseball clubs become the focus of regional staff work. To make this possible, a Point Person system has been put in place, with a contact person allocated for each club. Using this person should ensure that any baseball club’s needs will be met wherever possible and that there is constant communication between the club and BSUK regional staff.
Each staff member is also required to complete a Club Data Sheet for each club. These sheets are constantly maintained and provide a record of our work with clubs.
Recently, our work with baseball clubs in the North has included our staff inviting applications for facility grants, assisting in running a Northern Youth Easter Camp, directing new players to nearby clubs and running Academy Baseball over the off-season (including monthly national practices at Upper Heyford and monthly Northern regional sessions at Bolton).
We have provided promotional materials and postcards to clubs to support recruitment, which have proved very popular.
We are working in out-of-region areas and are supporting a potential new club in Durham by providing information and printed resources to help them become established. We have also run several Sport Unlimited programmes and supported Tee-ball festivals, which have been based around baseball clubs in local schools.
The North has been the most successful of all regions with regard to club accreditation, with Cartmel Valley, Halton and Manchester Juniors having attained Clubmark status. Bolton, Oldham and Northwich Baseball Clubs are working through the process and it is anticipated that they will have Clubmark by the end of the year.
The advantage of accreditation is that it requires clubs to put policies and procedures in place that improve the way clubs are managed. It also shows other partners, such as local authorities and schools, that our clubs are well-managed, well organised and young person-friendly. And it helps clubs to attract young people who are the future of the game.
BSUK has created a Youth Panel to allow young people to have their say in how baseball is run, and currently three of its 10 members come from the North. In the North West in 2010, regional staff delivered Young Leaders courses in schools and colleges for 194 leaders and so far in 2011 there are a further 61 leaders in the region.
These leaders help deliver Tee-ball and baseball into clusters of primary and secondary schools, raising awareness of the sport.
The Youth Panel is designed to recruit and develop the next generation of leaders for baseball in the UK and will engage more young people in the development of baseball by setting up a pathway and structure that will enable young people to take up leading roles.
The Youth Panel is modelled on the Young Ambassadors Programme set up by the Youth Sport Trust. Youth Panel members have a chance to act as role models to inspire and support other young people involved in baseball, and to promote active and healthy lifestyles. They work alongside the professional and experienced sport development team at BSUK and will have the opportunity to engage and work closely with County Sport Partnerships, School Sport Partnerships, other national governing bodies of sport, experienced volunteers and high level coaches.
Youth Panel members will also have the opportunity to attend coaching and sport development courses and to acquire transferable skills and experience in organisation and leadership that will serve them well with future employers. This knowledge and experience will be brought back to their home clubs.
BSUK regional staff in the North have worked extensively with schools and clubs to recruit more young people into baseball.
Forty-two primary schools in South Trafford now enter their Year 6 Tee-ball teams into an inter-school competition. The teams play friendly games in curriculum time and then compete in the Family of Schools Final held at the secondary school they feed into.
This programme has now become self-sustaining by linking the schools with the Manchester Baseball Club. Coaches from the club have been invited to get involved and are now well known by the schools and deal directly with the local School Sport Partnership and Trafford Leisure.
Manchester Baseball Club managed to recruit five players from this programme for its new Pony team during the 2010 season.
Further work has been carried out with Northwich Baseball Club, where Sport Unlimited funding has been accessed and coaches have delivered sessions in schools to help recruitment for the club and to raise awareness of baseball in the local area.
For the 2011 academic year, over £1000 of additional funding has been secured from Sport Unlimited and regional staff are working closely with School Sports Coordinators in local secondary schools to plan for eight weeks of after-school sessions this spring that can bring more players to the club.
On Merseyside, BSUK has accessed more than £2000 over the past two years through Sport Unlimited for delivery in schools to raise awareness of baseball and recruit new players for Halton Baseball Club. The club has been very proactive and three of their coaches recently concluded delivery to local schools, over an eight week period.
Regional staff also work closely with the hugely successful initiative for young people at Cartmel Valley Baseball Club in Cumbria. The club has very strong links with its local school, which has provided National Team players and local club players on a regular basis. There are now possibilities of developing a new senior team at the club in future.
A number of courses have been run – and continue to be run – for northern baseball coaches. Over the 2010-2011 off-season, Halton, Manchester and Leeds all hosted Level 1 Assistant Coach courses and Level 2 baseball courses were held in Halton last year and in Manchester in March this year.
Over the past year, BSUK has also trained two northern baseball coaches as Coach Tutors. These aspirant tutors were given opportunities to carry out paid tutoring and assessment assignments in the region, under supervision, on Level 1 and Level 2 courses. One of these tutors is from Liverpool Trojans Baseball Club. The other was based in Lancaster and now lives in Aberdeen.
The North has also had access to an on-staff Regional Coach and Club Development Officer (RCCDO), Liz Knight. Liz has made herself available for coach-mentoring registered Level 1, 2 and 3 coaches in the region. Clinics have also been run for clubs, targeted at players and coaches. A number of club visits have been made by Liz and her predecessor Brendan Cunliffe, contributing to training and club development.
During the summer of 2011, MLB Envoy coach Sam Dempster has been assigned to deliver support sessions to the junior sections of clubs in the North West, which will focus on player development and the continuing development of coaches. Part-paid for by BSUK, Sam has been a valuable resource to the development of baseball in the UK over the past five years. His current work plan includes assisting with the development of junior baseball at Menwith Hill and training in fundamentals for Oldham Baseball Club.
Developing and growing minority sports in this country is never easy.
It is a huge job to engage school staff, Partnership Development Managers, Competition Managers and the Local Authority and then persuade them to go with baseball over other sports when they have a menu of 46 sports to choose from.
Besides having to compete with the traditional sports such as football and cricket, there are many other sports, both new and old, that can be played outdoors in the summer months. So BSUK development staff have to make the case for baseball to many different people and organisations and then, where they get the chance, deliver high-quality programmes that will retain at least a percentage of the children who take part in the sport.
The growth of baseball in England over the past few years is a testament to the hard work and professionalism of BSUK staff, and a great deal of that effort has gone and continues to go into the North.
There is every reason to think that baseball in the North will soon be seeing the results.
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