Softball Saskatchewan is recognized as the provincial sport governing body responsible for the development/improvement, promotion and regulation of amateur fast-pitch, slow-pitch and modified/orthodox softball in Saskatchewan, within the framework of the Canadian Amateur Softball Association (Softball Canada). The organization provides support for 340 youth softball teams across 110 independently run community softball associations. Softball Sask is dedicated to providing a positive softball experience through quality coaching and a participant-centred approach.
Softball Saskatchewan has a clear goal of providing strong leadership and an evidence-based understanding of their members' needs. With softball being a sport that has a significant amount of participation in smaller rural communities, providing coaches with the necessary coaching resources can be both time-consuming and expensive. Coaching turnover from year to year is often high in these communities which means one of the biggest challenges is not only providing quality coaching education to volunteer coaches but doing so in a timely manner that doesn’t interfere with other aspects of that coaches life. As a provincial governing body, it was not financially feasible to go directly to every small community and provide yearly in-person coaching clinics to volunteers who may only end up coaching for one season. Softball Saskatchewan recognized that an alternative method was needed.
WHAT DID THEY TRY?
Softball Saskatchewan had tried a variety of coach training and support methods but found challenges with each.
DISTRIBUTION OF PAPERBACK COACHING MANUAL
Softball Canada created a paperback coaching handbook that included skills, drills and practice plans set out for an entire season specifically targeted at coaches new to the game. The manual was sent to Softball Saskatchewan who was then responsible for distributing the manual to all the softball communities within the province. The cost of mailing each manual was expensive and once they reached the community, there was no way to tell if those handbooks were being utilized by coaches.
WEEKEND COACHING CLINICS
Softball Saskatchewan provided weekend coaching clinics to help volunteer coaches. These coaching clinics unfortunately brought about further challenges. Although this provided new coaches with practical support, the clinics often contained a significant amount of information crammed into a short amount of time. If coaches had questions or felt they needed further support over the course of the season, they would have to refer back to lengthy coaching manuals.
The organization knew that there were better ways of not only supporting their coaches but reducing their coaching turnover as well.
ATHLETE ERA SOFTBALL COACHING APP
Softball Saskatchewan decided to partner with Athlete Era to develop the Softball Mobile app to better support their volunteer coaches. This unique tool would help them break down the existing barriers of significant coach turnover from year to year and information overload through weekend clinics. The mobile solution would help provide high-quality programming through detailed week-to-week guidance through an easy-to-use digital tool so coaches can focus on coaching their players instead of thinking about the next drill they are going to do. This low-cost solution helped reignite the sport of softball in struggling associations where ongoing coaching support was either very difficult to access or non-existent.
HOW THE APP WAS IMPLEMENTED
Softball Saskatchewan took a unique yet effective approach to get volunteer coaches and their teams onto the app. They started by sending out a mass email to all the associations within the province asking for volunteers to be “app champions”. The volunteers that stepped up from each association attended a 1-hour zoom meeting with softball sask to give them a general overview of the app. After the meeting, app champions were instructed to provide email addresses for all coaches within their organization so Softball Saskatchewan could set them up on the app. This approach would give each community association a "local resource expert" who could help promote app awareness and usage in their community. Athlete Era continued to provide ongoing product support throughout the season as well as help with the initial integration of existing content.
WHAT WERE THE RESULTS?
After just one season, the results were staggering! 60 community softball associations implemented the mobile app as their new coaching resource in the spring of 2021. During the 8-week season, an average of 1,051 coaches and parents used the app weekly. The 15 most popular youth softball drills were viewed over 6,000 times. Following the season, app surveys were completed by 85 coaches. Of the 85 coaches, 37 were first-time coaches, 16 has 1-2 years of coaching experience and 27 had 3+ years of coaching experience. Feedback statements from some of these coaches have been included at the bottom of this success story.
The Softball Mobile app was a huge success and was adopted by a significant portion of the community softball associations within Saskatchewan to help continue growing the game of softball!
Want to learn how you can get your volunteer coaches on the app? Click the button below!
REVIEWS FROM COACHES
The app was a fantastic resource for this small town coach!! It was full of great ideas and they were very age appropriate. I also like the way you could look in the drill library and sub in other ideas if one didn't seem right or wasn't gonna work for us. It is just an awesome resource. - Jen J.
Literally made coaching easy. Quick and effective app to use. I’m new to coaching and this was simple. I used the app all season, and loved it! Very helpful! - A. Kosteroski
The app was easy to use and it allows all coaches and players to view the practice plan beforehand. I continued to use it throughout the season. - Desmond H.
I found the app very helpful for communicating to parents, setting up the schedule and then having the RSVP feature which helped me plan the practice portion knowing who was all going to be there. - Sam K.
I thought that the app was very helpful, especially being a first-time coach. - T. Minchin
Made coaching easier to access everything in one place. I used it all season. - Troy D.
I used the app initially for the scheduling capability, but found the drills and practice plan libraries to be very useful as well. - Tracy B.
We were introduced to the app at the beginning of the season. I used it throughout because then I didn’t have to drag my paper manual around - tdk13
I liked the scheduling, keeping track of attendance, and announcement features for team communication and the drills with videos right there was very helpful. We used it all year! - Katie M.
I decided to use the app as a one-stop shop - used it to track availability, send team messages and find drills. I used it the whole year. - Cheri S.