Catering for diversity within clubs is becoming increasingly important. It encourages inclusivity amongst the community and can greatly benefit those involved. Making your club and its activities accessible to a greater range of people can potentially increase club membership, something Rockingham City & Districts Softball Association (RCDSA) has recently discovered.
With 640 members and roughly 43 teams, the club has increased its membership by 30 per cent from 2016. While increased popularity of the sport as a result of its involvement in the 2020 Olympics may be responsible for such a dramatic rise in membership, the introduction of the Softball Social 7s format at RCDSA can be considered a contributor.
In 2016 the club became the first in WA to introduce the Social 7s format which club President Micheal Canning describes as “the Big Bash in cricket, but in softball terms.” The style requires seven players a side, with simplified rules over a shorter duration. As a low contact, fun way to play softball, the format has been an asset for the club when it came to increasing club diversity and membership. Now others are considering following suit off the success of RCDSA, Softball WA has now started a Social 7s competition and Busselton and Bunbury are now looking into running it as well.
Mr Canning explained “the Sevens is aimed at families, both juniors and seniors and friends.” He said the club has seen a great interest from people who have previously never had anything to do with the sport. “There are not many sports mums and dads and kids can all play together, and friends that can go out and have a laugh and enjoy the game,” he said. Mr Canning emphasised that it’s definitely created an interest from younger members. While prior to 2015 Rockingham had no junior softball members, the RCDSA realised the need to focus on juniors for a future, and have gone from zero to nine teams within the past three years. There is no reason why that number won’t continue to increase due to the interest juniors have taken in the 7s format.
After seeing the success Social 7s had at the RCDSA, Softball WA has worked with the club to include it in their Aboriginal Softball Carnival rather than playing the traditional softball game. Aimed at indigenous girls and women, the annual tournament attempts to provide an opportunity for everyone to get involved in the game in an enjoyable environment. The RCDSA became involved in the carnival by entering their indigenous team. Mr Canning believes the involvement of indigenous players benefits not only them but also non-indigenous members, as it’s something there has been no focus on before at their club. “I think we will see a big increase in indigenous players coming down and seeing what we are doing,” he said.
While the RCDSA doesn’t currently have a team specifically for those with physical disabilities they do have players with specials needs involved in the club.
Mr Canning says “we do look at ensuring that we are inclusive and hopefully next year we are looking at trying to work towards an active game…we are looking at how we can embrace the inclusiveness of disability.” This could potentially increase club membership once again for the RCDSA and the simple Social 7s format seems a practical way of allowing those with special needs to become involved. “It’s on the radar and we are going to go there,” Mr Canning said.
While the introduction of the Social 7s style isn’t the sole reason for club membership growth, its introduction does highlight the benefits of creating new ways to make your club more accessible. Not only has membership increased for RCDSA, but greater diversity within participants in terms of age, race and potentially levels of ability has been enabled.
It is important to consider creating initiatives within your club that will not only benefit membership numbers, but will promote inclusivity and allow for a diverse environment.