The training camp achieved its multiple goals and turned out to be a wonderful and memorable experience for everyone involved
The implementation of the Erasmus+ Sports: Small Collaborative Partnerships project, INCLUSION & GENDER EQUALITY THROUGH SOFTBALL (IGETS), reached its climax with the 3rd transnational meeting held on July 23-28, 2018, in Zagreb, Croatia. Whereas during the first two transnational meetings the coaches from the three participating clubs met in Għajnsielem, Gozo, and Haarlem, the Netherlands, to exchange best practices and for capacity building, this time the U17 youth teams of the three respective clubs participated in a softball triangular training camp and tournament.
Softball Klub Princ Zagreb hosted the other two partners in the Erasmus+ Sports project IGETS, as the Ghajnsielem Redcoats and Honk- en Softbalvereniging Olympia Haarlem travelled from Malta and the Netherlands respectively for an intensive training camp. Along with the women’s U17 softball players of the two clubs, there were coaches, club officials and parents making the trip to the capital city of Croatia. A crew from Citadel Video Communications comprising of four individuals also travelled from Gozo to Zagreb to document the training camp and to report on the activities on Maltese national television.
The camp started with team building fun games so that the players coming from three different nationalities, speaking three different languages, would start to integrate with each other. The officials from the three clubs along with the coaches held a meeting to review the performance of the partnership and to plan ahead for the training camp.
There were three intensive practice session and five games during the training camp. Two high level US coaches, Nicole Thomas and Lisa Maulden, joined the coaches of the three clubs to conduct the practices. Pitching coach Nicole Thomas worked with the pitchers, Lorena Oreščanin was responsible for the catchers, Stanley Doney, Lisa Maulden, Charles Attard, Lars Looyen, and Joseph Scicluna conducted the sessions for the middle infielders, Nicole Thomas and Lorena Oreščanin did position specific drills for the 1st base and 3rd base players, while Cindy Blüm and Eveline van Dongen worked with the outfielders.
A session was also dedicated to hitting. Several batting stations were set up, spread over two fields and two batting cages. The players paired up and went from one station to the next in what was a very efficiently run and productive session. Coaches Nicole Thomas, on Field A, and Stanley Doney, on Field B were pitching so that the players could bat off live pitching. The coaches were very pleased with the efforts put in by the players of each of the three clubs, and were impressed by their level of skills.
Among the activities which were organised for the members of the three partner clubs, there was a very interesting and informative walkabout in the city with an IGETS theme. This was intended to further increase awareness among the girls with regards to inclusion and gender equality and at the same time get the players coming from three very different cultures to bond. Players and coaches were split into seven groups, with members from the three teams in each group. They had to visit several places of interest in the centre of the city marked on a map. At each place of interest they had to take a group photo or selfie and post it on the IGETS Facebook page with a comment in three or four languages that had to do with inclusion, gender equality, or softball. This turned out to be a great experience for everyone involved and the comments that the players posted were really good.
The camp also focused on other very important aspects of the game such as nutrition, sports psychology, discipline, and developing a professional attitude.
On Day 4 of the camp there was a seminar with a nutritionist who covered aspects of the diet for players before and after practices, games and tournaments, as well as during tournaments. The nutritionist could not emphasis enough the importance of hydration especially during summer tournaments. The nutritionist also showed them how to prepare a meal that does not exceed the desired number of calories. They were shown how to calculate how much of certain nutrients they should consume in the meal based on their body weight, and then how to choose certain amounts of different foods to reach those nutrient goals. The players then prepared their own healthy lunch in what was another team building exercise.
After lunch the players had another seminar, this time from a sports psychologist who tackled issues that have to do with mental preparation for practices and games, self-confidence and battling adversity during a game. He identified the difference between effort, over which the athlete has full control, and performance, which does not always depend on the athlete herself. He insisted that the athlete should focus on giving maximum effort. The sport psychologist asked the players to list situations of adversity that they encounter before, during and after games or practices and how they normally react to them. They also had to come up with a better way to react when faced with such difficult moments.
The players also had a forum on how IGETS impacted them over the past 18 months. They also filled out a questionnaire on the topic, providing valuable feedback to the project coordinators on the training camp as well as on IGETS as a whole.
The highlight of the training camp were the three tournament games and the two exhibition games which saw the three partners take on each other. The games were very competitive and of a very good level. In the opener of the IGETS Tournament the Għajnsielem Redcoats came from two runs down in the final inning to defeat Olympia Haarlem 7 – 6. In the second game the co-ed team of SK Princ Zagreb tied the Redcoats 5 – 5. Once again the Redcoats came from behind to tie the game in the last inning. In the final game of the tournament Olympia put on a great hitting display to beat Princ 15 – 12 and with that result the Redcoats were declared tournament winners. In the two exhibition games, the U15s of the Redcoats beat Princ 13 – 11 but lost to Olympia 10 – 5.
During the final day of the training camp there was an administrator’s meeting between the project coordinators of the three partner clubs. Joseph Scicluna, of the Redcoats, Mirjam Willemse, of Olympia, and Petra Cizmic Pokrajac of Princ, had a long meeting to assess the performance of the partnership during the training camp and to plan ahead for the final few months of IGETS. The most important remaining activity is the conference which is intended to disseminate the findings and the results of the entire project to key stakeholders within European softball. That conference is scheduled for this Autumn in Zagreb.
As expected the training camp turned out to be a wonderful and memorable experience for everyone involved. Several players exchanged their social media details so that they could stay in touch with the players from the other teams. The multiple objectives of the Zagreb Training Camp were achieved. There was plenty of capacity building and sharing of best practices between the coaches of the three partners with the important contribution of the two US coaches. The players gained from the sessions and showed improvement during the course of the camp. Participating in the games of the tournament as well as the exhibition games did wonders to their confidence. They also benefited tremendously from the seminars and forums that were organised for them. Still the greatest achievement was that the players have grown to love softball even more, and as a result are more likely to continue to play the game for the years to come. This could be the most important legacy of the Zagreb training camp and maybe of IGETS itself.
IGETS is a two-year project co-financed by the European Union. The Għajnsielem Redcoats received assistance from the Ministry of Education and Employment through the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport & Voluntary Organisations to meet its co-financing obligations.
Disclaimer: This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.