The theme of the 1st transnational meeting of the IGETS project chosen by the hosts, the Ghajnsielem Redcoats, was “A MULTISPORT APPROACH TO SOFTBALL“. A seminar was held on Friday afternoon at the Grand Hotel in Ghajnsielem covering this topic.

In the opening address of the seminar, Joseph Scicluna, President of the Ghajnsielem Redcoats and project coordinator for IGETS, explained why the Redcoats opted to become a sports club promoting different disciplines. The main reason cited was that the club wants to encourage children and youth to play more than one sport. He also stated that for the minors who participate in the programmes at the club the primary objective is to help them to improve their physical literacy – the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life. Mr Scicluna then went on to list the objectives of IGETS and how the three partners were planning to achieve them over the duration of the project.

Lynn M. Spiteri, Executive (EU Funding) Malta-EU Steering & Action Committee described the EU programmes which are relevant to sports organisations and how MEUSAC can assist in the application process. She highlighted the European Voluntary Service as well as the Erasmus+ Sports programmes and gave a brief description of each.

The next speaker was Tara Henry, a four-year letterwinner at UCLA from 2004-2007, where she was a member of the 2004 Division I National Championship team. During her career, the Bruins went to three straight WCWS and in her senior season she posted a team leading .400 batting average in PAC-10 Conference play. She is ranked 6th among the all-time leaders in career stolen bases with 43 at UCLA. She is co-founder of The Slap Shop providing private and group instruction in southern California. She coached high school and club teams as well as travelled with The Packaged Deal to provide clinic instruction across America. She is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Sport and International Development at the University of Brighton in the United Kingdom. Her research is focused on gender equality in sport. Ms Henry gave a very interesting account of her experience as a softball student-athlete, and how the support of her mother helped her to succeed. She started out playing many sports before she decided to focus on softball when she was 14 years old. Her experience playing softball at the highest level was very empowering. Her ambition is to coach softball not only to pass on the knowledge she has to youngsters but also to help in their development within a social context.

The keynote address was delivered by Mark Buttigieg, the Head of Physical Education at the Gozo College and the head coach of SK Victoria Wanderers who are in the semi-final of the FA trophy, the first football team from Gozo to ever achieve that. He is also a regional coach of the U11 and U13 as part of the Malta Football Association technical centre. He also has a multisport background as he played football and volleyball at a very high level throughout his career. Mr Buttigieg explained how critical it is for children to play more than one sport until they are about 14 years old as he explained the stages of the Long Term Athlete Development model.

He pointed out that according to research, those who opt for early specialisation experience quick performance improvement, with the best performance achieved at 15 to 16 years of age due to quick adaptation. They exhibit inconsistent performance in competition and have a high incidence of burnout with some quitting the sport by age 18. There is also an increased risk of injury due to forced adaptation and lack of physiological development. On the other hand, multilateral development leads to a slower performance improvement, with the best performances at age 18+ when the athlete has reached physiological and psychological maturation. There is a consistent and progressive performance in competition, and usually have a longer athletic career. Such athletes experience fewer injuries as a result of more progressive loading patterns and overall physiological development.

Along with the officials and coaches of the three clubs partners of the project IGETS, also present were the CEO and the PRO of the Gozo Sports Board, Mr Alvin Grech and Mr John Busuttil, the President of the Malta Baseball & Softball Association, Mr Mario Debono, along with Mr Keith Bartolo of the Mellieha Baseball & Softball Club and Mr Patrick Pace of the Luxol Mustangs. Those in attendance remarked that the content of the seminar was very informative and enjoyable for them as well as relevant for their respective organisations.

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.

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