Golden Homes corporate support has been an unprecedented opportunity to promote not only the Black Sox nationally and internationally, but the game of softball throughout New Zealand.
Through the partnership with Golden Homes, the New Zealand Black Sox have been able to compete internationally more often ensuring they continue to produce world class teams and results. In addition, the partnership has provided Softball NZ greater support with the implementation of development programmes from grassroots through to high performance.
Since the beginning of our partnership in 2014, Softball NZ has increased its national teams from 6 to 10. The addition of male and female national under 15 and under 23 teams has been a significant step in allowing more players and coaches international exposure and hence experience on the world stage. It has not only helped generate greater depth for senior national team coaches to select from but in doing so strengthened the domestic competition throughout the country.
In 2015 Softball NZ was able to secure the talents of former New Zealand Hockey Black Sticks captain and four time Olympian Darren Smith as our High Performance Director. As a result, an innovative performance pathway was put in place, one that captures talent throughout New Zealand age grade tournaments, and one which will foster and develop athletes through a national camp structure. The focus of the camps is to provide the necessary support to selected players ensuring they have the opportunity to become mentally and technically stronger softballers. The long term vision is to continue to build champion teams who consistently perform on the international stage.
The Men's Black Sox programme is currently ranked number one in the world with the women's White Sox programme in a very respectively fifth position. Both programmes will have an opportunity to improve their world rankings this July when the Golden Homes Black Sox compete in the World Championships in Whitehorse, Canada while the Junior White Sox will compete at the U19 World Championships in Florida, USA.
From a grassroots perspective softball has seen a significant rise in participation numbers in recent years. Membership numbers have risen from 27,000 in 2013 when the Black Sox became six-time World Champions to current an affiliation of 35,000.
At present 15 female softballers are undertaking scholarships throughout America, this number has tripled in recent years. These opportunities will not only ensure New Zealand has more players in high quality softball environments but will allow our young female softballers an opportunity to gain and education and one that will help set them up for life. As a sport and through our key partnership, we are able to promote these exciting opportunities providing a vehicle for young females they wouldn't otherwise have.
In addition, Golden Homes support has allowed the implementation of an online coaching platform which has grown from strength to strength in the last 18 months. The programme has seen more than 460 users gain national accreditation allowing coaches to learn the necessary skills of coaching which will not only benefit their own game but support the development of players across all ages and genders. As a result of the online platform umpire and score accreditation modules are currently being added.
TAB Challenge Cup
The 5 day event will run from the 8th to the 12th of February and include the top 3 ranked teams in the world. World number 1 New Zealand will go head to head with second seed Japan and third seed Argentina in what will set the scene as a precursor to the World Championships in Whitehorse, Canada this July.
Former world champions Australia will enter the tournament with a world ranking of 5 along with European Champions Czech Republic who sit at 8 and Tanifa Samoa 12 respectively.
A fierce battle awaits between the Black Sox and Argentina after the six time world champions lost three out of four games while in South America last month.
More information at http://www.softball.org.nz/TAB+Challenge+Cup.html