The Għajnsielem Redcoats, a sports club established in 2012, has secured a grant of over €58,000 through Erasmus+ Sports: Small Collaborative Partnerships, for a project aimed to improve gender equality in sport, especially softball. The project titled Inclusion and Gender Equality Through Softball (IGETS) will bring together three softball clubs coming from different parts of Europe – Għajnsielem Redcoats from Gozo, Malta, Olympia Haarlem from the Netherlands and Softball Klub Princ Zagreb from Croatia.

The project involves exchange of best practices relevant to gender equality in sports, efforts to encourage youths to play softball and sports in general, and to increase the participation rate in sports - especially among women and girls by working with key stakeholders in each country. IGETS shall increase the capacity-building of the three respective organisations and staff and create a lasting network of cooperation among the project partners. The project comprises four transnational activities along with activities implemented by each partner in their respective country, spread over two years.

In the first transnational activity coaches from the three clubs will meet in Gozo, Malta, to explore ways how to get children as young as four years old to participate in sports. In the second transnational meeting, in Haarlem (the Netherlands) we shall continue to work on capacity building especially of pitching coaches. Another objective of this activity is to study the administrative side of running a softball club and explore ways to enhance the running of the organisation including methods to generate funds.

The third transnational activity will be held in Zagreb, Croatia. This will be a joint softball training camp for the three under 17 teams of the participating clubs. The principal goal of this activity is to explore ways to keep teenage players engaged in this sport while striking a balance with their education, or even employment once they start working.

The final transnational meeting will be a conference for the project partners with the participation of members of their respective national softball associations and representatives from the European Softball Federation. During this conference the results of the project will be announced and a document will also be presented to the European Softball Federation for further dissemination to all European softball associations affiliated with it. In this manner the findings and recommendations that will result from the IGETS project will be communicated to everyone associated with fast pitch softball throughout Europe.

IGETS was conceived thanks to the efforts of MEPs Dr Therese Comodini Cachia and Ms Marlene Mizzi who last February invited the Gozo Sports Board to Brussels to explore ways how sports organisations in Gozo can access EU funding opportunities. The support of the Malta EU Steering and Action Committee, MEUSAC, was indispensable during the application process. Without the dedicated assistance from MEUSAC personnel, IGETS would not have been possible.

We were also fortunate that our project was endorsed by the General Secretary of the European Softball Federation, Mr Ami Baran. Now that IGETS has been granted funding, everyone associated with the Għajnsielem Redcoats is very much looking forward to start implementing the project which is expected to improve the level of our game and the popularity of softball in Gozo.

Complete project description is available here: IGETS Project Article.pdf

-Joseph Scicluna, Helena Novotná-