The Homeplate 2020/21 Ladder Program is underway and after an interrupted season for many across the country, this coming season promises to be a competitive one as Clubs and Associations are more engaged than ever before on improving their practises in administrating the sport.
Homeplate Ladder is Softball Australia’s Club and Association recognition program established to recognise Clubs and Associations for implementing best practise governance, management as well as membership growth and retention.
The Homeplate Ladder Program commenced in 2016 and recognises the top 20 Clubs and Associations nationally.
In 2019/20, even with the challenges of COVID-19, 9 Clubs and Associations managed to achieve the ultimate recognition of Homeplate status, with Geelong Softball Association (VIC) and Maitland City Softball Club (NSW) becoming Homeplate Ladder champions, respectively.
Having finished in fifth place in 2018/19, the Maitland City Softball Club, affiliated with the Newcastle Softball Association in NSW continued to demonstrate the outstanding practices, professionalism, inclusion and overall hard work it consistently performs every year to achieve the ultimate recognition of being crowned Homeplate Ladder Champions in 2019/20.
Ahead of the new season, here’s how the Hunter based Club reached the top of the Ladder under difficult circumstances, and how well they are placed to top the table again in 2020/21.
Goals and objectives driving the Club to success
The committee is driven by a simple but effective plan each year which focuses on participation, member retention and junior development.
Club President, Shareese Waipouri explains, the importance of planning to the Maitland Club.
“Without a plan you have no goals or anything to strive for, it establishes a direction for our Club to take and helps to keep us focused to get there.
“There is always room for improvement, and we can never become complacent with anything we strive for or implement. As always, our main goal is to promote fun and participation and we want our members to keep coming back every season.
“We do this by committing to ensuring a positive and inclusive environment. As Club President, I go out of my way to meet every single member of our Club, especially our parents and new members and try to set a good example for all Club volunteer committee members, officials, and players. We are fortunate to have so many great people in our Club who go above and beyond to ensure our members enjoy their time with us and to promote our family environment.”
Another major focus for Maitland each year is member retention and this season they introduced a Welcoming Officer/Vice President, who has not only helped many members on and off the diamond but has also been a great help to the President.
“We work hard to create a positive atmosphere whether it is on or off the diamond and to ensure our members have good experiences and make great friends and memories along the way,” said Waipouri.
“Whilst we had planned to increase more social functions last season, mother nature & Covid-19 interrupted that this year.”
In addition, Junior Development is also a top priority for Maitland, and they are very passionate about supporting not only their elite players, but the overall development of all players.
“The main focus is to ensure fun and participation, we also provide great mentors within our Club to not only teach the skills required to play the game of softball, but to teach day-to-day life skills.
“One of our main focuses is to teach our kids to show respect, firstly towards themselves, their teammates, team officials, umpires, parents, and opposition, be a good sport no matter what.
“The introduction of Junior Training Coordinators helped create a more structured and organized training program for both our players and team officials, in particular our trainee coaches.”
Membership Growth Success
The Club achieved an 8% growth in membership, again through simple, yet very effective strategies.
“Come and Try Days have always been successful for us every season, we promote as much as possible through our social media outlets, even paying a few extra dollars to promote online so that our overall reach in our local community is maximized,” added Waipouri.
“Advertising in local school newsletters is something we do annually as well. We are lucky to have several teachers or volunteer parent coaches who are members of our club which helps promote both our sport and our club in our local schools.”
Overall promotion of the Club is heightened by members, whether via social media and/or word of mouth. They encourage members to bring a friend and this too has been a successful strategy for membership increase over the seasons.
Implementation of best practice governance, operational and inclusion practises
Maitland completes the Softball Australia National Affiliation Standards checklist each year as well as the Sport Australia Club Health Check every three years to identify any areas for improvement.
“One of our critical factors identified over the past few seasons was relying on one main source of income such as member registrations.
“We have worked hard on securing major sponsorships, been successful in government grants, increased fundraising events and increased member registrations. All this has been helped by the introduction and implementation of sponsorship and grants officers who have worked tirelessly in their roles.
“We introduced a fundraising officer last season, however, with the effects of the events of the season such as smoke, wet-weather and Covid-19 restrictions, many of our fundraising events had to be cancelled.
“We were fortunate to secure the Softball Australia #BackonBase grant which was a great help,” added Waipouri.
In addition, the club has also implemented inclusion practices to minimise the cost barrier for families and low-income earners.
“We offer a Family Discount and Payment Plan Option, to increase our member retention. These options are part of our Player Information Pack on our website and a hard copy is also handed out or available via email.
“Another inclusion practice we are proud of is aimed at engaging Senior males, over 50. Our main aim was to establish a social men’s competition within our Association and we focused our attention on the older males, promoting a fun, social and physical activity, a chance to meet new friends whilst keeping fit.
“Good governance means we are held accountable for everything we aim for and achieve in our club. We have a direction or goal, our principles and rules are transparent and we control all of these with our actions and management of the systems we put in place.”
Volunteers are always hard to recruit, no matter how big or small the task, no matter what sport or activity involved.
Maitland’s approach to recruiting volunteers is innovative in splitting roles to reduce workloads and retain their current dedicated group.
“Like many other Clubs, we often have the same people stepping up to help out season after season,” said Waipouri.
“We have focused on splitting up some roles, or introducing an assistant to help, to reduce the workloads on our club committee.
“Similarly, with our teams, we have increased team official numbers by introducing trainee coaches to allow a more one-on-one focus for junior players.
“We also plan to try new ideas that have been put forward to us by our members, such as the way our rotational canteen roster is allocated throughout the season. If we do not try something new, then we won’t ever know if it’s going to work better for us or not.
“Our Club also covers the cost of all Level 1 Accreditations for coaching, scoring and umpiring as well as any necessary training required for our committee members such as ‘Play by the Rules Modules’ and ‘Member Protection Information Officer’ training.”
The Club also appointed a Junior Blues Umpire Coordinator whose focus is to work with their junior members.
They aim to develop confident players with good game knowledge which not only helps our players on the diamond but also increases our volunteer umpires, which in turn helps with Club duties.
Homeplate website and achieving Homeplate status
Maitland often uses the Homeplate website as their main source of information. They have used and continue to use the templates and find the website very user-friendly and easy to access.
“We have always tried to approach everything we do in a professional manner, achieving Homeplate status helps us to remain focused on our goals and to ensure we abide by the governing rules and regulations that are required for our Club.
“It also helps us keep up-to-date with the ever-changing guidelines that happen in our society every day, it’s our way of saying we are doing the right thing.”
The following outlines the 2020/21 Homeplate Ladder program which will continue to have a major focus on increasing membership and participation.
- Continue to encourage Associations and Clubs to implement best practises, meet National Affiliation Standards, attract new participants, achieve membership growth and retention and other requirements we have recognised as important elements for Clubs and Associations to be successful.
- Identify and recognise affiliates for the successful management and running of their Association and Club.
- Continue to monitor trends, rules and regulations as well as identify needs within Clubs and Associations and implement criteria to satisfy these requirements each year.
- The 2020/21 Homeplate Ladder Program will commence in November 2020.
- The program will recognise softball Clubs and Associations that have met each National Affiliation Standard, completed a Health Check in the past three years, implemented an action plan, registered to Homeplate, delivered National programs such as Fully Loaded Softball, Softball Batter Up, Social 7s and Sporting Schools, have achieved real membership growth, retained a majority of its membership base, implemented inclusive practices as well as providing courses for accreditation and implementing strategies to convert participants into registered members.
- A points system will be utilised to recognise the achievements of Clubs and Associations nationally. This is outlined in detail below, in Table 1.
- A ladder will be established highlighting the top achieving Associations Nationally and the top achieving Associations by State based on having met the above requirements.
- Associations/Clubs will be categorised into four categories, At Bat for achieving 0-29 points, On Base for achieving 30-50 points, Going for Home for achieving 51-80 points and Homeplate for achieving 81 points or more.
- Points will begin to be accrued from November 2020 for requirements completed from July 1, 2020 – 30 June 2021.
- Information will begin to be gathered in November 2020 and evidence of requirements completed can also be submitted by Associations and Clubs to firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Homeplate Top Scores will be published twice, once at the end of April 2021 as a progressive Ladder and a Final Ladder will be published in August 2021 via Softball Insider, Homeplate website, Softball Australia website, Member State websites, and through social media.