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Softball for all abilities

Disability inclusion in your Club
Benefits for your Club
Increased membership/funding for your Club

Strategies to establish programs for people with a disability
How does a Club get started in involving people with a disability?
Approach an organisation that supports people with a disability


Softball Australia supports the right of people with a disability to be involved in all aspects of our sport, including full and active participation. In our ability to engage a range of non-traditional participants, including indigenous communities, we look forward with confidence to more people with a disability actively participating in softball right across Australia.


Softball Australia is committed to increasing accessibility and opportunities for people with a disability to participate in softball.


Disability inclusion in your Club

Welcoming and inclusive softball Clubs are those that ensure everyone - participants, coaches, officials, administrators, spectators or any other person involved in, or visiting the Club, is made to feel welcome, included, and valued.


Being seen as a welcoming and inclusive Club within the community promotes your Club in a positive light and makes it more appealing to potential participants, volunteers, sponsors and other supporters.

  • Clubs forget that people with a disability are a viable market sector for participation and most importantly membership

In the 2013 Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) 1 in 5 people in Australia (4.2 million or 18.5%) had a reported disability. This rate was much the same for males (18%) and females (19%)

  • Don't ever underestimate the skills of people with a disability – their skills and abilities vary as much as able – bodied participants
  • People with a disability have family and friends who can play a valuable role in your Club as well
  • Clubs do not need to have any special disability specific knowledge or be experts in the disability area. You need expertise in softball, a positive attitude and a welcoming and inclusive environment
  • Softball Clubs have a legal and moral obligation (Disability Discrimination Act 1992) to include people with a disability, but most of all, it just makes good sense. If you require more information regarding this area you can visit the Australian Human Rights Commission of the Play by the Rules website


Benefits for your Club

  • More members which can add a richness and a diversity to the environment
  • Your Club will learn a new dimension of sport through interaction with or coaching athletes with a disability
  • The experience of developing friendships and working with people who have a disability will make a difference in the lives of everyone involved
  • Your opportunities for media exposure will increase because your club is inclusive
  • Families and friends of athletes with a disability will become active, supportive and more aware of your inclusiveness, thus increasing participation and attendance at your Clubs events
  • The potential for your Club to gain access to community funding at a local level
  • Your Softball program will develop better community relations
  • Your colleagues and student athletes will gain new insights into teaching basic skills and reaching out to others
  • As a committed leader within the community, your leadership role will be reinforced and enhanced.
  • Awareness levels about the capabilities of individuals with a disability will be increased among your clubs administrators, players, officials and volunteers

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Increased membership/funding for your Club

  • Players would be expected to become financial members of the Club.
  • Membership is important for all players to develop a sense of belonging to the Club; this membership could be at a reduced cost if athletes are on a pension
  • This would be the case for any other member of the Club that experiences financial restrictions

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Strategies to establish programs for people with a disability 

To establish softball programs for individuals with a disability in your Club you would need to cater for various levels of ability. The points below are for you to consider:

  • The aim is to provide an organised Softball competition within Clubs / Associations that would grow beyond the Club structure to a state based competition, whilst also providing for skills and activities integrated from their everyday life
  • Be aware that not all disabilities are able to be seen or are obvious. Many are hidden.
  • People with a hidden disability want it to remain that way. Confidentiality is essential, and if ever in doubt ask the person with a disability what they want
  • The current lack of Softball Club programs that include people with a disability is an indicator that this development will provide a much-needed opportunity for people with a disability and give your Club membership a much needed boost

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How does a Club get started in involving people with a disability?

  • Contact your State Softball Association who may be able to assist you as well as link you up with disability groups and organisations in your area.
  • Contact your State Department of Sport and Recreation; they may be able to give you some support
  • Contact the Sport and Recreation department of your Local Council or Shire, they may also be able to assist you
  • Develop a vision statement reflecting a commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive sporting environment
  • An action plan to make your commitment visible is developed, implemented and reviewed annually.
  • Promote your clubs commitment to inclusion to your members, stakeholders and the local community using various promotional methods such as the club website
  • Send flyers to local schools including Special Schools in your area. Many parents are not aware of what there is available to their child
  • You may want to link the flyers with a come and try day
  • Approach disability groups and organisations within your area (eg Special Olympics – these organisations are keen to partner with an established Club). They may already have access to athletes and may be able to assist with volunteer training based on their experience with  working with people with a disability.
  • If you already have sponsors then also approach them, they may be able to assist with promoting your programs
  • Local councils are always looking for inclusion programs / stories that build community development, and may also help with promotion, so link in with them. To find contact details for your local council visit the Australian Local Government Association

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Approach an organisation that supports people with a disability

  • Find local organisations in your area that support people with a disability (eg Special Olympics, Ausrapid, Yooralla etc)
  • Form links with these organisations through some of the following methods below


Build public awareness

  • Invite the athletes to compete in a demonstration game or exhibition at a home competition
  • Invite the athletes and families to a home competition
  • Include information on the athletes in your Club program, media guide, newsletter, etc

Make facilities available

  • Play a pre-season exhibition scrimmage or game to benefit the athletes with intellectual disabilities
  • Allow the group to take donations at the door or at the concessions stands


Offer a range of activities/events for all abilities

  • An average team will include athletes who have very limited exposure to a sport and athletes who have been playing for years, perhaps even in integrated sports programs in the community
  • Setting up practices will be much easier once you know the ability of each athlete


Examples of dealing with different ability levels

  • Ask more experienced athletes to help teach skills to new athletes (you can set up mentoring programs)
  • Split the athletes into two groups: an independent group and one that you work with more closely
  • Set up stations at practice, but set individual goals depending on the skill level of each athlete


Provide safe training and competition opportunities

  • This is no different from any other coaching situation, but it is important to always remember
  • Each person with a disability is different from another person just like able bodied people


Involve families and/or other support groups

  • Many families would like to only be involved by coming to the competitions and cheering. Others seek more active roles as assistants or coaches themselves.
  • All of these are acceptable and a part of the "team experience"
  • The more effectively you find ways to include families in the team experience, the easier the season will become.
  • Families are like athletes; each is unique. You shouldn't try to make assumptions about their potential for support based on anything but personal experience

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There are a couple of various ways in which you could gain funding for such programs in your club. There are excellent government funded programs that already exist to reach out to and understand the driving philosophies of the various disability-specific organisations that you can work with to access these funds. Those include:


Local disability organisations

Your local disability organisation which you partner with may be able to assist you with funding for the program. It is always important to discuss this in the beginning so that you can plan for it either way.


Local businesses/sponsors

Your local communities businesses and or Club's sponsors may assist you in funding your program. Tell them of your plans and how they can also benefit from such a sponsorship. You will be surprised what local businesses would contribute to such programs.


Philanthropic organisations

It is important to research organisations such as Philanthropy Australia to see what funding sources are out in the community for local sporting groups. Softball Clubs would be suitably placed to present and or apply for funding to organisations that would fund projects such as disability programs.


Local councils

Local councils have funding for local sports programs which build community. It is important that you visit you local council's website and see what they have to offer. Most local councils offer community events or community funding. To find contact details for your local council visit the Australian Local Government Association.

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Updated13 March 2014

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