GB Florida Selection Camp is a great success

Thu 17 Jan 2019

By Jo Malisani

Just under 40 Great Britain National Team hopefuls and 11 National Team staff members from the GB Under-16, Under-18, Under-22 and Senior Women’s Teams came together under gorgeous Florida skies from 8-12 January for an intensive five-day selection and training camp.

Evaluation

For first two days of the five-day camp, held at the headquarters of the WBSC Softball Division in Plant City, Florida, athletes were put through their paces via fitness testing, softball skills protocols and intra-squad scrimmages, where they were evaluated on their athleticism, softball skills and game awareness. 

The intra-squad scrimmages were four inning/45 minute closely-contested affairs, with senior athletes taking younger ones under their wing by encouraging and mentoring them throughout the games.

Results from the scrimmages, where pitchers and fielders had the edge over hitters, were:

Blue 0, Red 0
White 3, Blue 0
Red 1, White 0

The WBSC Softball Division complex in Plant City consists of a stadium, a softball four-plex, some batting cages and a couple of small ponds -- and a special visitor to the camp on the second day was the site's often-rumoured but seldom seen alligator!

Training

On Days Three and Four, the focus shifted from evaluation to training. 

During morning sessions, athletes worked in small groups on offensive and defensive skills, while the afternoon sessions focused on game scenarios and simulations. 

Competition

On Friday evening and Saturday morning, the focus changed again, from training and learning to implementation via game-play, with exhibition games against Hillsborough Community College on Friday and teams from the Clearwater Bullets travel ball organisation on Saturday to finish up the selection camp.

With Hillsborough Community College, four-inning scrimmages were set up against each GB Selection Camp team, with a rolling line-up for each of the GB teams.  These were low-scoring and hard-fought matches with the following results:

Team Blue 1, Hillsborough 1
Team Red 0, Hillsborough 2
Team White 0, Hillsborough 0

On Saturday morning, the remaining 34 athletes (some players had to leave the camp early) were divided by age group among Team Blue and Team Red.  The Under-16 and Under-18 trialists came together as Team Red to play the Clearwater Bullets Under-18 squad, while the Under-22 and Women trialists competed as Team Blue against the Clearwater Bullets Senior Team.

Team Red and the Clearwater Bullets Under-18s played four innings with rolling substitutions, and then  used two more innings to work on international tie-break strategy and runner-on-third scenarios, with six batters from each team coming to the plate before switching sides. 

Team Red got on the scoreboard early with two runs in the first inning, but were only able to scratch out one more run over the next five innings, while the Clearwater U18s were able to score in all six innings to win by 15-3.

Meanwhile, Team Blue and the Clearwater Seniors played a complete seven-inning contest with rolling substitutions in which the final score was 5-0 for GB Team Blue.

Summing up

Many athletes commented that they enjoyed the chance to meet and interact with staff and other players from across the GB programme, sharing and talking the game with other trialists, and some came away from camp with new friendships.

Throughout the five days, staff were very pleased with the athletes’ willingness to work and eagerness to learn and compete, and with the way they came together to support and encourage each other throughout the week. 

The camp allowed coaches to see the trialists in a competitive game environment and to see how they responded and adjusted in-game from at-bat to at-bat and from pitch to pitch.  The camp also allowed staff to work with each other to continue to build the programme ethos across all teams. 

Overall, the athletes performed well and the coaches from all four squads will have some hard decisions to make in selecting their teams for the 2019 season, which will be an exciting time for the future of the programme with an Olympic Qualifier to come for the Senior Women’s Team in July.

GB Senior Women’s Head Coach Rachael Watkeys said, “The GB Women’s Team coaches are so excited that we got to observe so many athletes over the five days, making selections much more interesting.  A number of new or up-and-coming athletes have been spotted who potentially will bring added value to the team, which makes us very excited about the year ahead.  We look forward to this becoming an annual event.”

Thanks

Heartfelt thanks are due to Laurie Gouthro from the WBSC Softball Division, Linda Derk of LDI Sports Inc, Cindy Bristow of Softball Excellence, Plant City Parks and Recreation, and Bobby Simpson from Higher Ground Softball for helping to procure equipment, facilities, opponents for scrimmages, and umpires to help make the Selection Camp a success.

The Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Plant City provided everyone with a home during the camp.

Lastly, a big thanks to the GB National Team staff members who took time away from their full-time jobs to attend and facilitate the camp and ensure that it was a huge success for both the programme and the athletes involved.

Staff who attended the camp included Head Coach Rachael Watkeys, Assistant Coach Liz Knight and Pitching Coach Tina Whitlock from the GB Women's Team, Head Coach Jo Malisani, Pitching Coach Windy Thees, Team Manager Whitney Hollis and Physio Edwin Lam from the GB Under-22s, Assistant Coach Russ Snow and Physio Sarah Cormack from the GB Under-19s and Assistant Coaches Joss and Laura Thompson from the GB Under-16s.

Photos by Liz Knight

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