This article sums up development reports as they were presented at 2016 ESF Congress.
The slowpitch update presented by John Austin was very positive, and John was able to cite the fact that 15 teams – the highest number ever for an ESF slowpitch event – have signed up to play in the European Slowpitch Super Cup, the top European slowpitch event in 2016.
More good news is the confirmation of a clinic in 2016 for slowpitch umpires, who will be needed more than ever given the increasing number of active teams and slowpitch events in Europe.
Four European teams took part in the WBSC Slowpitch World Cup in November 2015 in Plant City, Florida, and all saw it as a success. WBSC Softball Division Tournaments Director Laurie Gouthro expressed her satisfaction with the event and confirmed that efforts will continue to hold slowpitch competition on a world level.
For the complete update on Slowpitch, check out the "Slowptich in Europe" article.
The major development project starting in 2016 is the European Softball Coaches Association (ESCA). Former Olympian Michele Smith, supporting the idea, said: “Establishing a coaches association in the 1980s in the United States is what made the difference in growing softball”. On the recommendation of ESCA Chair Ami Baran, the EC appointed Mattias Grimstoft (SWE) to be the Chief Director and Craig Montvidas (NED/USA) as the Director of Coach Development.
Another project that will be supported by the ESF, and that will grow over the next few years, is the ESF Euroleague concept (also known as Interleague). The idea of a regional league was conceived in Croatia in 2014 when Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia organized three weekend tournaments during the season. The goal is to create regional leagues all over Europe and increase the number of international games for players and coaches.
Other development projects are based on partnerships with various organizations. Craig Cress from ASA/USA Softball attended the convention and discussed further details of a sisterhood partnership between ASA state associations and European national federations.
Little League representatives presented their ideas on cooperation at a earlier meeting, while Michele Smith assured European softball that her support and collaboration will be continuing. Michele and Kevin Smith (Director of the Clearwater Sports Commission) both expressed their enthusiasm for softball in Europe and their support is much appreciated.
We can’t talk development without including BeeBall. There is still the option for federations to request BeeBall Starter Packs or BeeBall clinics. BeeBall is an effective means of attracting the youngest players to softball, and in countries such as the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, BeeBall has become an essential part of their national development programs.
There is much more development work going on beyond these projects -- containers with equipment arriving from the USA, coaches’ conventions, development clinics, fulfilled requests for experienced coaches and more, all helping development in many European countries. To learn more about development progress in 2015, check out the General Progress Report.
To find out more about development in 2016, check back later on the ESF website or follow our Facebook page, where we will introduce the various projects and provide updates from national federations.
(Helena Novotna, cover photo by Grega Valancic)