School & community development work featured at Farnham Park

Tue 7 Aug 2018

The National Baseball and Softball Facility at Farnham Park may be best known for hosting adult league games, tournaments and National Championships -- but it also plays host to a wide range of community development events over the spring and summer, especially schools programmes.

These programmes, designed to spread knowledge of our sports and produce the next generation of players, began in the spring with outreach sessions and blossomed in the summer with competition events across a number of age groups.

Below is a taste of the schools development work that BaseballSoftballUK staff and volunteer coaches have carried out over the past few months.

Slough schools outreach programmes

Benefiting from strong partnerships formed over the past five years with the Slough School Sport Network, and more recently with SportInspired, BaseballSoftballUK has been delivering sessions for schools in Slough that are close to the national facility at Farnham Park.

When the winter finally gave way to spring, coaches Sian Wigington, Holly Newell and Dan Patterson began delivering weekly after-school softball sessions at the following schools:

Cippenham Infant School -- 10 weeks of teeball
Ryvers Primary School -- 11 weeks of softball
Marish Primary School -- 10 weeks of softball
Foxborough Primary School -- 5 weeks of softball

Each school now has an after-school Softball Club and some have taken part in inter-school competitions.

In addition, BSUK Fastpitch Development Manager Johanna Malisani has built a link with Great Marlow School and ran three after-school sessions for female students as part of the Girls Active initiative.

These school sessions have involved children from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, and have introduced the sport to both boys and girls.

Schools events

As spring became summer, and the long, hot dry spell set in, BaseballSoftballUK, in partnership with local schools and organisations, brought hundreds of children to Farnham Park to engage in competition.

South Bucks and Chiltern schools event

Working with the School Games Organiser (SGO) in South Bucks and Chiltern, Rachel Hutchinson, an open schools event was run on 24 May at Farnham Park.  Around 35 students from three local schools took part in skills work, followed by games.

For most of the schools and their students, it was their first time taking to the diamonds, and a lot of fun was had in the sun. 

The main aim of the event was to promote schools and junior softball opportunities in general, and for the schools to be inspired to set up their own school clubs and play more regular inter-school competitions.

Rachel Hutchinson said, "Softball is very new to some of our schools and the taster event gave those schools that are in close proximity a great opportunity to experience the superb facilities and coaching on offer at Farnham Park.  The sun shone for the afternoon and the students got to hit some balls in practice and loved playing the games against other local schools -- and we can't forget the tasty hot dogs after all that hard work!

"As an SGO and Inclusion Lead, I am very excited about our journey moving forwards and growing softball in our area with the support of BSUK and Farnham Park."

Change 4 Life Festival of Softball

On 5 June, BSUK ran an event bringing nine Slough primary schools together for an afternoon of key skills development using the sport of softball.

Led by Johanna Malisani and with national team players and coaches Sian Wigington, Chloe Wigington and Holly Newell, nine different skills stations were set up, with student leaders from Beechwood Secondary School briefed to support the coaches.  The different stations introduced the children to the basic skills involved in the sport -- catching, throwing, fielding, running and batting - and there was also a focus on skills such as teamwork, communication and hand-eye coordination.

Yolanda Gutteridge from the Slough School Sports Network SSSN) said, "We were really excited to add this event to our calendar this year and offer another fantastic opportunity to infant-aged pupils.  There was a great turnout from Slough schools, and we had some really positive feedback from the staff. We hope this event will continue to develop and increase in size as it becomes a permanent fixture within the SSSN competition calendar."

BSUK plans to work with SSSN to run the event again in 2019 and will invite even more schools to take part.

Bucks County School Games Championship

The annual pan-county school softball tournament took place on 13 June on another sun-soaked day at Farnham Park.

The event was attended by four schools from across the county, and the eventual winner was Lord Grey School, who beat the impressive Great Marlow School Team A in the final.  Lord Grey had previously won the event in 2016 and are experienced in slowpitch softball competition.

The event, as always, was played in a good spirit and BaseballSoftballUK looks forward to seeing all these schools return, and more, in 2019.

Slough Primary Schools Softball Tournament

This annual event took place once again on the Farnham Park diamonds on 5 July, with five schools taking part.

In a really close tournament, Lynch Hill Enterprise Academy Team A were the eventual winners, going undefeated throughout the event.

The final placings were:

1 -- Lynch Hill A
2 -- Lynch Hill B
3 -- St Mary's School
4 -- Castleview School and Penn Wood School

Looking ahead

It's unquestionable that Farnham Park has created more opportunities to increase the number of children playing Softball and Baseball in the Slough and South Buckinghamshire area. Similarly, there is also no question that most children who get a chance to try the sports love them and want to play them again, and BaseballSoftballUK is increasingly running or facilitating programmes and events that will allow them to do just that.

It's a slow, incremental process, but giving children the opportunity to play and to join the softball and baseball communities in the UK is the best way to ensure the growth and sustainability of the sports.

The spring and summer of 2018 have offered a host of opportunities for young people in the area.  And next year, it will happen all over again.

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