Pre-season training zooms along nicely

Although it wasn’t what they had envisaged when they took on the Division One coaching gig earlier this year, incoming coaches Siobhan Stephenson and Sinead Flanigan are enjoying the challenges of an online pre-season.

After taking the reigns from arguably the most successful women’s player Springvale has produced thus far, Shae Lillywhite, the new coaches knew that taking on the task of leading the Division One program would be quite the challenge. “We have both learnt a lot from Shae”, said co-coach Sinead Flanigan. “Both Chevy and I have a lot of respect for what Shae has achieved, not just at Springy, but at all levels of the game. And we’re both really excited to have her as part of our playing roster for 2021/22. But the coming season will be a chance for us to continue to find ways to raise the bar and help drive continued success for the women’s program. And from a success point of view, it is not just about winning and losing (though everyone loves to win). It’s more about continuing to drive high standards and helping guide those involved to be the best people they can be. At the end of the day, that is what is most important”.

Though both Chevy and Shannas knew that they were preparing to fill big shoes, they never thought they would be preparing their squad virtually, on computers, via zoom training sessions – which has of course provided a challenge in itself. “Pre-season is always a great opportunity to get players back into the swing of things, and give them a chance to really focus on repetitions and fundamentals in the lead up to the season”, said co-coach Chevy Stephenson. “Doing it via zoom, no thanks! Let’s be honest, they were my initial thoughts. I didn’t know how we were going to engage with anyone, or if anyone would even be bothered. And given I am teaching full time online, I just wasn’t really all that excited about it to be honest. But to the players’ credit, it has been excellent. We have had a fantastic turnout over the first four weeks of our pre-season, with numbers ranging from 15-18 players each week. I feel like we are doing all we can to come together and prepare – particularly during what is a difficult time for a lot of people”.

With pre-season training sessions running every Tuesday night via zoom, the squad of players from Division 1, 2 and 3 are trying their hand at YouTube cardio sessions, foam rolling, band exercises, mobility, and hand-eye coordination sessions focusing on ball handling skills. In addition, there is a weekly Kahoot quiz to add a bit of ‘fun’, and of course, a bit of competition. “Simone has done a great job putting together and hosting some fun sessions for the whole group”, said Stephenson. “It’s been a good starting point for a lot of players to get themselves moving again after a long winter without baseball, and has also provided opportunities for girls at all levels to adjust the sessions to suit their fitness/skill levels. In fact, we have been able to focus more attention on areas we probably wouldn’t have time to in a regular training session – like better physical preparation, routines, etc”.

And the players are taking it in their stride. Whilst it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it is giving people an outlet. “It is bringing the group together, and providing everyone with an opportunity”, said Flanigan. “I love that players from all three teams turn up, everyone is willing to have a go, and they are genuinely improving in areas that they may not have thought about four weeks ago. Also, I’ve loved the commitment. We surveyed the players back in August, and there were a lot of players looking to progress to a higher division. Seeing those players turn up and really put their hand up for selection in a higher team, that’s been really impressive”.

Pre-season sessions via zoom are likely to continue for at least another five weeks in the hopes that the girls can once again take the diamond for some group training sessions at the end of October. In the meantime, training will move outdoors (online) over the next two weeks when daylight savings arrives, providing opportunity for players to start doing more baseball specific training. For any current female Big Cats players, or those wishing to get involved who might be new to the club, reach out to women’s coordinator Siobhan Stephenson and she can share the zoom link so you too can join in on the fun.

In addition to women’s pre-season online, the women’s program are also excited to begin ‘Diamond Girls’ virtual training sessions starting this Tuesday, 21st September. Running from 5pm – 6pm, the sessions will be focused on engaging with current and future ‘Diamond Girls’ in preparation for those wishing to join our Division 3 women’s team this summer, or continue as part of our Diamond Girls program in early 2022. Those wishing to join in the fun can also contact Siobhan.

Siobhan Stephenson – sstephenson@sfx.vic.edu.au