Mums on the Mound – Big Cats Championing Motherhood at all Levels

Gee and Bond celebrating after the Division One Grand Final win 23/24

For most who are familiar with the Springvale Lions Baseball Club, the notion of breaking stereotypes and actively championing inclusivity would come as no surprise. With a rich history of fostering a diverse and supportive community, the Big Cats have long been committed to empowering both men and women to succeed on and off the baseball field. A sport not unlike many others, where wins on the field are often what those from afar might use to measure success, the club has prioritised creating a culture where the strength of the community lies at the forefront. For the women’s program more specifically, long-term success and Premiership victories over their first thirty years are often discussed, but what really sets the program apart is the unwavering support of its people – no matter their situation.

As Mother’s Day approaches, we wanted to highlight the amazing work that not only the mothers at our club are doing, but the fact that our club continues to help rewrite the narrative surrounding motherhood and sport. The ethos of the Big Cats extends far beyond merely fielding teams, it’s about providing a platform where women, including mothers, can thrive at every level of the game. Whether it’s Division One, returning to push and play Division Two, or even social opportunities in a lower grade, the club stands firm in its dedication to empowering women to play, coach and lead within the sport.

President Jess Adkins-Barber, a member of the women’s program for 25 years spoke passionately about the support the club had provided her over many years. “The club has always been a place I could come back to. I remember taking a break a few years ago, knowing full well I could return and always feel welcome, like part of a family. That was no different when I had my first child Henry. The girls welcomed him to training, he was on the field after games, and there was a sense of support that no one really talked about, it was just a given.”

Mini playing catch with Henry

For the mothers of the Springvale Lions, the journey isn’t just about playing the game they love, it’s about doing it on their own terms. By balancing the demands of parenthood with their passion for baseball, these amazing women are not only redefining what it means to be an athlete, but also serving to inspire those around them – male and female.

In the recent 2023/24 Division One Grand Final, five of the starting nine players on the field were mothers. Totaling six children across this group of mothers, their presence on the field not only exemplified their dedication to the sport, but also defied expectations when it comes to playing the highest level of baseball available at grassroots level.

“I never thought I would be able to return to playing Division One baseball”, said Sinead Flanigan, 10 year veteran of the Big Cats Women’s Program. “I knew it would be difficult returning after I had back surgery 18 months prior, but the thought of then returning after pregnancy and finding ways to get myself back into the condition I needed to be in to play at that level, it didn’t seem possible. I have felt such support from everyone at the club, particularly the other Division One girls like Shae who took time out of her own training to find ways to help me when I was really struggling to find my feet again. I also took great motivation from players like Chevy and Shirl who had made their way back to Division One after having kids. I really do owe the club so much for helping me along my journey to returning to the game I love.”

Beyond the grand final spotlight, the women’s program boasts a vibrant community of mothers who are not just players but also coaches across all three women’s teams, and also involved in the junior programs at the club. Their presence underscores the club’s commitment to fostering a culture of inclusivity, where women of all backgrounds and stages of life are welcomed and supported as they pursue their passion for baseball.

“As a mother myself, I know how important it is to have goals and passions in other areas”, said Siobhan Stephenson, 20 year Big Cats Women’s Program player and current Division One Head Coach. “I have been extremely lucky to be in such a fantastic environment where I could take the time I needed and manage my life as a mother whilst continuing to play a pretty big role at the club. The girls help me get my work in, they know I can’t always be around, but they also know they can rely on me as a committed member of the program. It really is a great club that provides opportunity for anyone and everyone, no matter your situation away from the club.”

In a sporting landscape where gender stereotypes are still at play, the Big Cats champion mothers of the game, shaping a future where women are empowered to pursue their baseball goals without limitations. As the Lions continue to roar on the diamond, we are all reminded that when women are given the opportunity and support to shine, they can truly achieve greatness.

On behalf of the club we want to wish all of the Big Cats mothers a very happy Mother’s Day this weekend. To all the players, coaches, scorers, umpires, canteen staff, parents who drive the players to and from games, the players without kids who take in the younger girls as if they were their own, and anyone else involved in a supporting role, we tip our cap to you and know that your commitment and dedication inspires us all and does not go unnoticed.

2022/23 Premiership Team Photo including Charlotte, Reece, Arthur and Bond