Getting started…


Leah Holmes

As 2016 kicked off and the New Year’s resolutions kicked in I was lucky enough to have something very exciting on the horizon – New Year, new job!  For those of you who haven’t met me yet, I have recently taken over the role of Midlands Development Manager for BaseballSoftballUK and have now enjoyed one month in post (anniversary gifts welcomed!).  Shortly after starting I was told that my predecessor, Tom Mapp, had put his name down to write a blog post for February, and although slightly daunted by the prospect I agreed to give it a go in his place.

After pondering what I could write about -- I don’t have the technical knowledge of our sport that many of our members and coaches have, nor am I as wise to the history of the company as many of my colleagues -- I decided instead to give an insight into my first month in the job: my thoughts as a new employee and also as a relatively new participant in our sports.

First week

My first week was spent in the Major League Baseball offices in London, a building which lives up to expectations with baseball-shaped windows and MLB memorabilia adorning the walls.  Here I met the rest of the BSUK team who rent space off their glamorous American cousin.  Having previously worked for Badminton England, a company that employs almost 100 members of staff, this was the first big change to take on board: BSUK is made up of just 12 employees.  However, it was clear from my first week that all those employees are extremely passionate about the sports, and with small sports comes real potential for growth, which is something you can tell everyone is really excited about.

My days were spent being overloaded with a lot of information on all the different work areas, from all the technical stuff regarding databases and drives that are used to store information to the ins and outs of invoices and purchase orders.  I got updated on the various work programmes such as Hit the Pitch, found out about the exciting changes to the Coach Education programme, and gained information on the club landscape across the Midlands.

With my first week under my belt and a LOT of notes and documents to digest, I was looking forward to finding out more detail about a few of the projects on the horizon and finally getting out there and meeting some partners.  I decided my priority for the rest of the month was to meet the Midlands clubs/universities and to follow up leads for a potential corporate softball series in Birmingham.

On the road

Birmingham is the second biggest city in the country, and as London has shown, cities have massive potential for growth in softball participation, something that so far has been relatively untapped in Birmingham in the recent past.  Having covered the city in my last role, I know it can be a difficult area to crack, but the potential is huge with such a large population, so many big businesses and four universities.

One of my first meetings therefore was with Sport Birmingham, the County Sports Partnership for the area who I had worked with previously and who have supported BSUK in the past.  Softball is once again to be included in their Summer School Games, and following the successful inclusion of softball in last year’s Business Games, we are keen to build on this and expand to a series of events for local businesses throughout the summer.  We had a really productive meeting and The Birmingham Workplace Challenge Softball Series was born.  Watch this space!

I get extremely excited about the prospect of introducing completely new participants to these wonderful sports through new leagues and programmes – but coming from a volunteer and player background myself, the highlight of my first month has to be the meetings I have had with a whole host of clubs and universities from across the region.  Coming from a softball background, it has been really useful that a large number of these meetings have been with baseball clubs, which gives me more of an insight into the sport and its strengths and challenges.  Every club I met was different to the last, with varying committee structures and priorities.  However, there have been some similar themes that have come up regularly, funding and facilities being the most common.

I have also spotted a fair few similarities between our clubs and those I worked with in the badminton world, but one of the big differences I have noticed has been the average age of volunteers.  In badminton, the most common club committee member was someone retired who still wants to be involved in the sport they love, but the baseball and softball club volunteers are generally from a much younger age group.  With this comes challenges over time capacity, with many juggling careers and family commitments, but it also creates a group of forward-thinking people, keen to develop the sport in new ways, and I am thoroughly looking forward to working with them.

Warm welcome

When I took up softball just under two years ago as a player, it felt like I had joined a secret club.  I was blown away by how welcoming everyone was in the Sefton Softball League and it turned out that the community feeling did not stop there.  As I entered more tournaments and got to know more softballers from across the country, my addiction continued to grow -- as did my friendship group!  Now that I have joined the BSUK team, this warm welcome has continued -- not only from the staff but importantly from the baseball and softball communities in the Midlands, regardless of previous engagement with the company, something I am incredibly grateful for.

So finally, a big thank you to all the clubs who have met me and the universities I have chatted to – thanks for all the friend requests, twitter follows and the welcoming words I have received.  To any clubs, universities or players out there keen to develop and get more people playing, my message is: please do get in touch!

tagged under: development, bsuk staff, experiences

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