The push of the Ghajnsielem Redcoats for gender equality in sports in Malta is gradually gaining momentum. Through the Erasmus+ Sports: Small Collaborative Partnerships project Inclusion and Gender Equality Through Softball (IGETS), the club is trying to increase the popularity of softball as a means to improve the rate of participation of girls in sports. The Education Department along with several other national organisations are supporting the initiatives of the Redcoats. Thanks to the efforts of Mr Kevin Azzopardi, EO Physical Education, there is a plan to introduce softball in State Schools during the 2017/18 scholastic year. This would be a tremendous development for our sport as well as for gender equality.

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An agreement was reached in April with the Minister of Education and Employment, Hon Evarist Bartolo, to provide a series of softball coaching courses for PE teachers from Gozo and Malta. Through the efforts of Mario Debono, the President of the Malta Baseball and Softball Association, the World Baseball and Softball Confederation is sending a high level coach from the United States to conduct the first such course. Ms Connie May, the General Manager of the Scrap Yard Dawgs, a professional softball club based in Houston, United States, will be in Malta next week for this purpose. Four top level softball players will be accompanying her to help out. Scrap Yard Dawgs along with USA Softball are sponsoring the involvement of the four players.

Tatum Edwards, former pitcher at Nebraska Huskers Softball, Madison ‘Madi’ O’Neil, outfielder at Baylor University, Jade Smith, former UTSA Roadrunners outfielder, and Kelcy Leach, a catcher who just graduated from The Woodlands High School in Texas, will be assisting coach Connie May.

The coaching course will take place on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, June 14, 15 & 16 from 9:30am to 11:30am at the National Sports School, Pembroke. At least two PE teachers from each college in Malta will be attending this course along with eleven from Gozo. There are several individuals who are already involved with softball who will also be attending this coaching course. Certificates will be distributed to those who attend these sessions by the Association.

For those with experience coaching softball, there will be a Level 2 coaching course on Saturday at the Mellieha Football Ground starting at 9:15am to 11:30. The afternoon session which is scheduled from 12:15pm to 2pm will continue to build on this but will have the involvement of the softball players who are based in Malta, mainly players of the Mellieha Curves and the Luxol Mustangs.

During their stay in Malta, Connie May and her players will conduct a 3-day intensive training camp for the players of the Ghajnsielem Redcoats at the Gozo Stadium. The sessions will be on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 5pm to 8:15pm. Pitching, fielding, catching, and team defence will be covered during this training camp which will end with a softball game on Thursday starting at 6:30pm. This game will feature the four US players.

Softball has the potential to be a big sport for girls in Malta. It is already one of the most popular among girls in Gozo with well over 30 girls between 10 and 17 practicing and playing softball with the Redcoats. Next week could prove to be an important event in the history of this sport in our islands. For the momentum of these activities not to dissipate, further efforts are needed especially during the upcoming season, starting in October. Let’s hope that everyone involved in softball will pull together and support these efforts for the good of the game.

The Ghajnsielem Redcoats would like to thank the main sponsor of the coaching course and the training camp, the World Baseball and Softball Confederation. Their involvement made this possible. Important sponsors are the Ministry of Education, Scrap Yard Dawgs, USA Softball, the Malta Baseball and Softball Association and the Gozo Sports Board. The EU is co-financing the IGETS project.

SOFTBALL COACHING COURSE – DAY 1

National Sports School, Pembroke

June 14, 2017

On Wednesday, June 14, the first session of the Softball Coaching Course Level 1 intended for PE teachers from Malta and Gozo, was held at the National Sports School, Pembroke.

Kevin Azzopardi, Education Officer – Physical Education, and Mario Debono, Malta Baseball & Softball Association President, gave introductory talks. Mr Azzopardi  told the participants that this was the first of a series of softball coaching courses intended not only to enable PE teachers to promote the game at schools but also to teach their students how to play it.

Mario Debono, President of the Malta Baseball & Softball Association (MABS), confirmed that the Association will support those schools who will participate in this project with equipment and technical assistance. He also confirmed that the WBSC has already donated several softball starter packs which will be distributed in October.

Ghajnsielem Redcoats Club President and IGETS project coordinator, reiterated that through sports gender imbalances can be reduced. However, to have gender equality in sports there need to be opportunities for girls to practice a sport. This requires adequate facilities, equipment, and coaches. The objective of this Softball At Schools initiative, supported by the WBSC, USA Softball and Scrap Yard Dawgs among others, was to have coaches who will introduce softball at state school.

The 35 teachers and prospective coaches who attended this session were not disappointed as Scrap Yard Dawgs General Manager, Connie May, along with her team delivered a thoroughly interesting session which covered the rules of the game as well as some of the fundamentals skills of softball such as throwing and catching. Judging from the interest and the questions of those in attendance the indication is that the objectives of the first session were achieved.

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SOFTBALL COACHING COURSE – DAY 2

National Sports School, Pembroke

June 15, 2017

If the first session of the Softball Coaching Course got the PE teachers interested to promote the sport with their pupils, the second session went some way further as it got them wanting to play the game themselves. The first part of this session was held outdoors at the Luxol Sports Complex, and covered hitting. The session evolved into a batting practice session with many of the teachers making great contact with the ball. For the second part of the session the group moved indoors to the multi-purpose court and focused on fielding and on communication. Once again there was determination from the teachers to master the skills of the game so that they will be able to relay them to their classes once students return to school in October.

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SOFTBALL COACHING COURSE – DAY 3

National Sports School, Pembroke

June 16, 2017

The third and final session of the Softball Coaching Course was intended to bring together what was taught during the first two sessions and cover in more details the rules of the game. This was done by playing an actual game. The teachers did really well during the game with several good defensive plays and some well-hit balls including an out-of-the-park home run. As expected, several mistakes were also made and this provided opportunities for coach Connie May to step in and explain what should have been done. The teachers also asked questions as they needed explanations for potential scenarios.

At the end of the game a Certificate of Participation issued by the World Baseball and Softball Confederation and signed by President Riccardo Fraccari, was handed to each participant. A Level 1 Baseball-Softball Coaching Certificate was also given to those who attended the course. Coach Connie May was satisfied with what was achieved over the three sessions.

For this initiative to make the desired impact more work needs to be done starting in October. All the entities involved need to stay in touch to assist the PE teachers by providing them with the necessary equipment and with further technical support. A follow-up by Connie May and her team towards the end of November is necessary to maintain the momentum achieved so far. Intra-school softball tournaments need to be organised at least every trimester so that the students would get the opportunity to play the game and improve their skills.

The Ghajnsielem Redcoats would like to thank the sponsors and those who supported this project. Hon. Evarist Bartolo, Education Minister, Kevin Azzopardi, EO PE, Mario Debono, President MABS, WBSC, USA Softball, Scrap Yard Dawgs, Coach Connie May and her team, Madi, Tatum, Kelcy and Jade. The Redcoats would also like to thank the teachers who accepted the invitation to attend this coaching course.

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