2020: Global baseball-softball development doesn’t stop amid global pandemic

2020: Global baseball-softball development doesn’t stop amid global pandemic
In the first of the 2020 End of Year Review series, we look back on how WBSC development has continued despite the impact of COVID-19. Baseball and softball are currently being practiced by approximately 65 million people across 140+ countries and territories around the world. The WBSC is aiming to boost those numbers this decade with aggressive development plans.

Aiming to develop Baseball Softball into one of the biggest sports in the world, the WBSC started the year with a strategy to roll out impactful development projects. Some of them were implemented in the first months of the year, like the Softball coaching seminar in Asia, and the Africa Development Project, which was held in Tanzania.

However, with 2020 being something no one had expected, the WBSC had to adapt to these trying times, implementing online courses and tools to keep boosting and promoting the development of the sport throughout the globe. In this regard, the creation of the WBSC Academy was the main answer to the new world, while Baseball5 online courses were staged for African and Asian coaches.

With the WBSC Academy fully operational in 2021, the WBSC expects to expand efforts, providing every player, coach, official and fan around the world with the opportunity to access a world-class educational tool to learn and promote the game in every corner of the planet.

WBSC Academy

In November, the WBSC launched its Academy, a global development initiative to help facilitate athletes, coaches, officials and National Federations to conduct efficient self-learning of the various topics related to Baseball, Softball and Baseball5.

WBSC President Riccardo FRACCARI said: “This new online learning platform adds another powerful tool to further develop our sport globally, particularly in new and emerging baseball/softball territories.

“Whilst the pandemic has accelerated our need to create online e-learning tools for our Member Federations, the WBSC Academy is also part of our goal to reduce our carbon footprint across all of our activities.

“It is also important that we continue adapting to the new norm and that we find new ways to support our community at a time when COVID-19 continues to restrict peoples’ movements.”

The first online course published was Baseball5 followed by Baseball for the Blind, aiming to help Member Federations discover and develop the discipline. The Italian Association (AIBxC, Associazione Italiana Baseball per Ciechi) is overseeing the introductory course in English and Spanish.

The WBSC Coach Commission then made available a course on Baseball/Softball Grassroots as part of the Coach Licensing Programme. The e-learning programme aims at equipping educators, aspiring coaches and current coaches with the necessary knowledge and tools to help develop new generations of baseball and softball players all over the world.

More new courses will be implemented in the upcoming months. Coaches interested in the courses need first to request login access to the MyWBSC Page and then select the course amongst those listed in the WBSC Academy section. Click here for more info.

Africa Development Project

The Africa Development Project (ADP), the initiative of the WBSC Development Commission and the African Baseball and Softball Association (ABSA) as a result of the WBSC African Baseball Summit 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa, continued during the first months of 2020, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In February, the ADP was successfully introduced in the East African nation of Tanzania, which has a population of approximately 57 million. A total of 35 participants completed the workshop at the Azania Secondary School in the nation's capital, Dar Es Salaam. The development and governance seminars were organised by the WBSC in collaboration with the Tanzania Baseball Softball Association (TaBSA).

“We have already seen evidence of the ADP’s effects all over Africa,” said Mashilo MATSETELA, Continental Vice President of Softball in Africa, and President of Softball South Africa, during an interview with WBSC at the U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup. “Administration and leadership courses have been run in a number of countries, which have had extremely positive feedback.”

Tanzania is the sixth country to join a programme, following Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa and Zambia. 

The ADP aims to boost baseball and softball across Africa and run over three phases. Phase one is aimed at developing the managerial skills of national federation staff before phase two focuses on the technical growth of the Federation. During phase three, the WBSC will support the National Federations in the organization of events.

“There are more accredited coaches than ever before, and with more technical courses planned, the professionalism and skills of African players, coaches and officials will only increase,” added MATSETELA. “The ideal takeaway is to grow the number of WBSC affiliates, and enhance the development of African players, coaches and technical officials. We know the sport can grow in the long run, and we’re excited to see how far this program can go.”

Coaching seminars in Malaysia and Benin

The WBSC organised from 10-15 January, together with Softball Asia, the first Softball Coaching Certification Seminar for levels 1 and 2 in the region. The successful event received the support of the Softball Association of Malaysia, the Penang Softball Association and the Penang Sports Council. A total of 68 coaches participated, 44 of them from Malaysia and 24 from other countries in the region: Brunei, Hong Kong, India, Philippines, Singapore, Chinese Taipei and Thailand.

"We made an important step forward," commented MIYAKE Yutaka, the Chair of Softball Asia Coaching Committee and the Vice President of Japan Softball. "Our goal is to have a proper coaching system in place for coaches to reach the highest level in softball coaching."

During the last weeks of 2019, the WBSC organized a series of technical courses for Baseball, Softball and Baseball5 coaches of the Benin Baseball and Softball Federation. The courses were funded by Olympic Solidarity through the Benin National Olympic and Sports Committee. A total of 28 coaches (24 men and 4 women) from all over the country attended the courses.

"The event was set up to reinforce and strengthen the Benin coaches abilities," explained the Benin Federation President Fernando Lavenir ATANNON. "It was a great success."

Baseball5 expands in Africa and Arabic speaking countries

Baseball5, the WBSC urban baseball softball discipline, continued its rapid expansion around the world even during the COVID-19 pandemic. WBSC conducted online courses for coaches in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Algeria, introducing Baseball5 rules, basic mechanics of the sport, field applications, warm-up exercises, training drills and various playing methods (boys - girls - mixed) for different age groups, all of them supported with pictures and videos.

A Baseball5 introductory course for coaches in Egypt was held on 11 September 2020, under the supervision of the WBSC, the African Baseball Softball Association and the Tunisian Baseball and Softball Association. The online courses attracted 27 participant coaches.

In August, WBSC Continental Instructor Chedli MOKRANI (Tunisia) held the first-ever Baseball5 seminar in Arabic for 24 coaches from Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Algeria. The initiative was also organized with the support of the Tunisia Baseball and Softball Federation. The webinar was divided into three different sessions that lasted a total of five hours. Module one was about the rules of Baseball5, the second module was about warm-up and defence and the final session was dedicated to hitting and the managing of game situations.

A Baseball5 course is projected to be added to the WBSC Academy in the upcoming months.

WBSC Coach Commission Workout Series

On 23 June, to celebrate Olympic Day, the WBSC Coach Commission launched a workout video series aiming to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity to overall health as part of the IOC’s #StayStrong, #StayActive, #StayHealthy campaign.

In all, the WBSC Coach Commission published 12 workout videos aiming to encourage people to exercise while being confined at home.

In March, the WBSC Coach Commission unveiled a video message for Baseball and Softball players, fans and officials in their own mother languages to encourage everyone to stay healthy and safe during the pandemic.