Sooke Fastball president Chris Bryant stands beside a historic 1955 Sooke fastball uniform in the ballpark meeting hall.

Learn to Play fastball program is all about having fun

A backgrounder on Sooke's fastball program for young beginners.

What is the worst thing any right-minded coach fears? Exclusion. A team where there is little to no communication between go-getter-type players and those less confident in their abilities. And whether it’s on the field or on the ice, team spirit (or lack thereof) is the thin line that lies between victory or defeat.

At least, that’s the idea behind the Sooke Fastball Association’s Learn to Play starter fastball program: everyone plays. It don’t matter if you’re an all-star athlete or not.

“Just turned five? C’mon out, learn to play ball,” says Sandra Cameron, program co-ordinator of the Learn to Play program.  “You just need a pair of sneakers and a good attitude to get out and have fun.”

Cameron notes the entry C-level fastball program is specially-designed to involve everyone on every level, regardless of their skill personality.

“Kids are different; you have your confident go-getters, you have your athletic types to your super-shy, uncoordinated kids, and I think if we can get the message out there that any kid can come and try,” she said. “We’re not going to force them into it, but rather ease them in and gradually put them into that team spirit.”

Dr. Chris Bryant, president of the Sooke Minor Fastball Association, notes the “gradual” part of successfully building up an involved and competitive player in any sport is what is often missed in sports programs these days.

“You want to get into games and rules, that’s further down the line in the B and A class,” he said. “I’m not interested in who can run the fastest, I just want to know if a kid can run for two or three minutes without stopping. I don’t want to see a kid who comes last all the time, this isn’t a running marathon; we help them integrate and work as a team.”

The Learn to Play program, which involves participants aged five to eight years old, will begin in May and run once a week until late June. In their first weeks, kids will be taught the basics of the sport, along with general physical exercise.

“At this age, sometimes the worst thing you can do is handicap a kid with a glove on their hand. Majority of what they’re learning how to do is done with non-traditional equipment,” Bryant said. “We’re going to teach them the fundamentals, but in a way where five and six year olds can understand.”

After all, it’s easy to break a kid’s spirit; practice makes perfect, but impatience breeds frustration and insecurity – the complete opposite of what the up-and-coming program is all about.

“For 13 or 14 year old kids, it can get pretty overwhelming, which is why good player development is all about stations; modules; the kids get trained in chapters. It is very key,” notes Bryant.

No actual games are played during the course of the Learn to Play program, as its focus is towards practice – as you progress however, that starts to shift backwards; more games, less practice time, which starts in the B fastball division (Minor League Play is for ages nine-18) and goes into the A.

And it isn’t just about getting the kids active either, but as Cameron points out, it’s also getting the parents involved and letting them see that it’s a good outlet for their kids to grow in.

“Parents want to be involved in their kids’ lives,” she said. “If you have a good team that’s made up of the community, just to make the parents feel involved too is a big part of their kids’ development.”

With the local sports community going strong, the district of Sooke will also playing host to the upcoming 2015 Boys Fastball Provincial Championships on July 10-12, 2015, there’s no doubt this is going to be an exciting fastball season.

Last registration day is March 25, however late applicants are accepted.

Visit the club’s website at www.sookefastball.com to learn more about the organization. Download instructions/documents from the “FORMS” tab and bring them along with cheques to the above registration dates