Despite the achievements of the Club on and off the field, the future of baseball and softball in Gozo very much depends on the availability of proper facilities where the players of the Għajnsielem Redcoats can practice and play the game they love so much
Sport in Gozo is certainly gaining in importance and in popularity. There are more parents who are enthusiastic about enrolling their children in sports programmes, while more financial assistance has been forthcoming from the Government to support projects undertaken by sports clubs. The Għajnsielem Redcoats has benefited from this as demand for the various programmes has increased, especially from girls. The Club has also received financial assistance from various public entities including the Għajnsielem Local Council, and was awarded grants from the Ministry for Gozo for two softball projects.
For the Club the past twelve months have most certainly been very demanding from an administrative standpoint. Still the Għajnsielem Redcoats managed to enjoy success on the field, with the softball team who were once again crowned national champions, as well as off the field, with the completion of important projects and in winning various individual awards.
ACTIVE START – YOUNG MULTISPORT ATHLETE
With ACTIVE START the Għajnsielem Redcoats wanted to expose athletes 4 to 6 years old to different sports so that they do not just improve their agility, balance, coordination and speed, but they grow up to love sports, and stay physically active.
ACTIVE START has evolved considerably from 2014 when it was launched, and has increased in popularity as well. This season there was a record number of participants with 32, and for the first time there were more girls (17) than boys (15) enrolled in the programme. The sessions, which were conducted by four coaches, involved fun games related to athletics, gymnastics, min-volley, baseball, football, mini-basket, and tag rugby. There were also sessions with obstacle courses, tug-of-war, and even bocci. The success of the programme is judged by the improvement of the participants as well as by the attendances, which remained high during the winter right through the final session.
FUNDAMENTAL SKILLS ACADEMY
As a continuation for ACTIVE START, in 2015, the Għajnsielem Redcoats launched the FUNDAMENTAL SKILLS ACADEMY for children 7 to 11 years old. Whereas the former programme covers several sports during the season, the latter focuses on a few sports and aims to familiarise the participants with each sport so that they would be able to play it.
The programme reached a very good level last season. Coaches Mark Xerri and Maria Angela Caruana managed to keep the participants engaged throughout the entire season covering volleyball, basketball and football. The sessions, which were held at the playground of the Għajnsielem Primary School, were 90min long with the first half of the session dedicated to one sport, and the final half dedicated to another sport.
The basketball programme consisted of two sessions per week. One for U10 boys and U15 girls. The other session was for U15 boys. Cynthia Saliba and Jennifer Bonello coached the girls and the younger boys, whereas Joe Theuma and Cynthia Saliba were responsible for the boys’ team.
The teams stayed busy with friendly games against the Shamrock Stars, Starlites, Hibernians, Luxol, and against the OnTheMove basketball team. The boys and girls continued to make very good progress thanks to the efforts of the coaching staff. The next step is to organise meaningful competitions for the various age groups so that they would be able to gain experience and become more attached to the sport.
GĦAJNSIELEM PRIMARY SCHOOL
The Redcoats kept their commitment to have weekly baseball/softball sessions at the Għajnsielem Primary School for students from year 1 to year 6. These sessions are helping to promote baseball and softball with the students, while at the same time improving their physical literacy.
BASEBALL MINORS & MAJORS
Well over 30 boys and girls were enrolled for the baseball sessions which were held every Saturday afternoon at the Għajnsielem Ground. Steve Ellis coached the U13s while Joseph Scicluna coached the U10s. Periodically exhibition games were played against the Luxol Mustangs. On May 1st, the 4th edition of the MAY DAY BASEBALL FESTIVAL was held in Għajnsielem. The Redcoats girls’ team played against the Mustangs and did very well to come from behind to tie the game 8-8, while the boys’ team managed to beat the Mustangs 7-5. The Club is very happy with the progress of this group of young players, and is currently exploring the possibility to travel abroad with the U10 and U13 teams to play against European teams of their age group.
BACK-TO-BACK SOFTBALL NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
For the second season in a row the Għajnsielem Redcoats won the Fastpitch Softball National Championship organised by the Malta Baseball & Softball Association (MABS). The Redcoats won the best-of-seven series with relative ease, winning six games and losing just one.
There were several players who stood out, particularly, Monique Attard who was very effective pitching two games from the start, and in another four games as a closer. Corinne Grima, in her first full season as catcher, was also impressive. Kimberley Scerri surprised everyone by leading the competition with 12 base hits and a batting average of 0.667. Estelle Scicluna was dominant as a pitcher, striking out 44 hitters in 29.1 innings pitched, and had an earned run average of just 2.89.
This was a great achievement for the team, and for the Club. Despite all the players being U18, and playing against much older opponents, the Redcoats managed to defend their title of CHAMPIONS OF MALTA!
MABS AWARDS 2018
During the 2017/18 season the Għajnsielem Redcoats made a clean sweep of the two fastpitch softball competitions organised by the MABS. There were individual awards for each of the two competitions.
Daphne Cassar was voted Best Fielder, and Estelle Scicluna was voted Most Valuable Player for the MABS Autumn Tournament. Monique Camilleri won the Best Fielder award, Corrine Grima was voted Best Hitter, while Estelle Scicluna was voted Most Valuable Player for the National Championship 2018.
Over a very short period of time the Redcoats managed to put together a softball programme that is producing quality players, and these individual awards are further proof that the programme is successful.
XXXIV MEMORIAL CIVELLI TOURNAMENT
The U18 softball team of the Għajnsielem Redcoats travelled to Castions Della Mura this past July to compete in the XXXIV Memorial Civelli International Softball Tournament. The Redcoats lost four games but managed to earn a tie against SK Joudrs Praha of the Czech Republic. Despite the results, the Redcoats provided plenty of proof that, as a team, they are competitive against most U18 softball teams in Italy and the Czech Republic. It was also evident that the Redcoats have players who are good enough to compete against the very best in Europe.
The two standouts for the Redcoats during the tournament were Kimberley Scerri and Estelle Scicluna. Kimberley had six base hits including a triple, and five runs batted in, from 12 plate appearances, giving her a batting average of 0.545. Estelle pitched 12 innings, faced 57 batters, allowed nine hits, walked eight, and struck out 20, a third of the batters she faced. The two earned runs in twelve innings gave her an earned run average of just 0.83, which, at this level, is quite impressive. She finished runner up to Kateřina Kindermannová, the pitcher of Beavers Choumutov of the Czech Republic, for the Best Pitcher award. This is a truly remarkable achievement.
GOZO SPORTS AWARDS
The Għajnsielem Redcoats did extremely well at this year’s edition of the Gozo Sports Awards. The Club had five finalists, and the Redcoats came away with two awards, and finished a very respectable second at the other three categories.
Cynthia Saliba was voted into second place for the Coach of the Year Award, as was Corinne Grima for the Female Athlete of the Year Award. The women’s softball team, who last year were crowned National Champions for the first time, were runners up to Victoria Hotspurs for the Team of the Year Award.
For the second time in four years, Estelle Scicluna, won the Most Promising Female Athlete of the Year Award. It was a much deserved honour for the starting pitcher of the Redcoats’ softball team. Estelle had a great 2018, winning the MABS Most Valuable Player award and was voted as Best Fielder of the Gozo Cup.
The work that Joseph Scicluna did as project coordinator for IGETS earned him his second Official of the Year Award in as many years. This was the third time the President of the Club won this award.
The recognition that the Club is receiving from the sporting community of the island is further evidence of the great work that the Għajnsielem Redcoats are doing.
GOZO CUP 2018
The first and only Erasmus+ Sports: Small Collaborative Partnerships project in Malta came to an end with the Gozo Cup 2018 Softball Tournament. The three partners in IGETS, Olympia Haarlem (NED), SK Princ Zagreb (CRO) and Għajnsielem Redcoats wanted to conclude their two-year project with something special for a greater impact in achieving the various objectives of the project, and in order to provide a platform from which to disseminate the findings and outcomes of IGETS. A high level tournament was organised in Gozo last November, with the participation of some of the best senior players of the three clubs, each reigning national champion of their respective country.
Team REDCOATS-OLYMPIA-PRINC led by Eva Voortman won Game 1, 10-4, but team MLT-CRO-NED led by Nicole Thomas, came back in Game 2 also winning 10-4 so that the two teams got to share the Gozo Cup!
The young Redcoats surprised themselves and everyone else with their individual performances during the two games. Playing with some of the best softball players in Europe made the Gozo Cup a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable experience for them. Performing as well as they did, was the icing on the cake. The BEST HITTER of the tournament award went to Mara Sliško of SK Princ Zagreb. Estelle Scicluna was voted as BEST FIELDER, while young lefty pitcher, Monique Attard was voted as the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER. This was a great honour for the two Redcoats players who managed to excel at such a high level tournament.
INCLUSION & GENDER EQUALITY THROUGH SOFTBALL
IGETS came to an end on December 31st, 2018, however, the work for the Redcoats on the project went on until the end of February when the final reports were submitted to the EACEA. The Education, Audiovisual and Cultural Agency of the European Union, which administers the Erasmus+ Sports programmes, gave IGETS a score of 80%, and remarked that the project made a big impact on the participating organisations. IGETS was praised for being innovative in its design, and for providing added value to the EU.
Għajnsielem Redcoats still remains the only entity from Malta to have applied for, and obtained funding for a project through the Erasmus+ Sports: Small Collaborative Partnerships programme. The Redcoats is also the only softball club from across Europe to have done so as well, and one of a handful of European sports clubs to have obtained financing through this funding strand.
MGOZ PROMOTION OF SPORTS INITIATIVES SCHEME
In 2017 the Ministry for Gozo introduced a scheme whereby sports clubs could apply for grants to help them finance projects. The Għajnsielem Redcoats successfully applied for financial support for a project called Coaching Empowers.
Two professional foreign softball coaches visited Gozo to give three coaching clinics held between September 20, and October 6, 2018, to upgrade the level of local coaches. The primary objective was capacity building, but there were also efforts to encourage youths and adults to volunteer as coaches.
Helena Novotná of the Czech Republic, did one of the three clinics which was titled Achieving More During Practice. The other two coaching clinics, Introducing the Fundamentals and Teaching Skills with Fun Drills, were conducted by Nicole Thomas, a US softball coach. The project managed to achieve its aims and received very encouraging feedback from those who attended the sessions.
A second such MGOZ scheme was launched in December 2018, and the Redcoats once again successfully applied for assistance to organise Sizzling Fastpitch, an international softball tournament to be played in Gozo. For Sizzling Fastpitch, two U18 Dutch teams were invited to Gozo to participate in a triangular softball tournament against the Redcoats between August 17 and 21.
Two Dutch teams, Sparks Haarlem and BC The Herons, competed in a two-round robin along with the Redcoats U18 softball team with all the six games played at the Kercem Stadium. Sparks Haarlem were overpowering and registered four comfortable victories, 11-0 and 13-0 against the Herons, and overcame the Redcoats 15-1 and 12-3. The Redcoats managed to beat the Herons twice to finish the tournament as runners-up, winning the first game 12-7, and the second one 6-5 in dramatic fashion.
The Redcoats impressed in each of their four outings, and showed that they can compete with most European U18 softball teams. Marilise Vella did an excellent job playing catcher, a very demanding position. She also did very well with her bat, leading her team with five base hits. Nicole Cassar, playing at 2nd base made 16 assists, and four put-outs, including a spectacular double play. Laragh Tabone, who played at 1st base, also impressed. She registered a stunning 32 put-outs, with one assist, and had a fielding percentage of 0.971. Nicole and Laragh were joint winners of the Outstanding Fielder award of the tournament.
Estelle Scicluna struck out eight players in 13 innings pitched, while walking just three. She helped defensively as well, registering eight assists, without committing an error. Estelle was also instrumental offensively, leading her team in stolen bases and runs scored (8). She registered four hits, including an inside-the-park home run, for a batting average of 0.444. Estelle won the Most Valuable Player award of the tournament because of her overall contribution to the success of her team, including her leadership qualities.
DEDICATED SOFTBALL FIELD
Despite the achievements of the Club on and off the field, the future of baseball and softball in Gozo very much depends on the availability of proper facilities where the players of the Għajnsielem Redcoats can practice and play the game they love so much. Over the past few years quite a lot of effort has been dedicated by the Executive Committee of the Club to make this happen. There is support for this project from the authorities, particularly from the Minister for Gozo, Hon Dr Justyne Caruana. This is very encouraging and fills everyone associated with the Club with optimism going forward. We simply hope that a dedicated softball field becomes a reality sooner rather than later.
Following seven years of growth, the Club is now at a stage where it cannot expand any more due to the lack of dedicated facilities. Every effort will be made so that the current position is consolidated. However, this represents a challenge in itself. As a result, the upcoming season is going to be a critical one for the Għajnsielem Redcoats. Still, with the continuing support of the parents, the sponsors, as well as the authorities, the Executive Committee is confident to be able to steer the Club towards more success on and off the field.