In 2019 we launched Australia’s first social wheelchair softball competition.
Held in the City of Casey Stadium, Victoria, the competition followed two successful ‘come and try’ days and several meetings between key partners.
The come and try days were important to gauge interest, test equipment and rules and to determine if softball can actually be played in wheelchairs on a basketball court.
The inclusive competition provides an opportunity for people with a disability to participate in softball with able-bodied participants on an equal basis.
Players of all ages, genders and abilities play while seated in a wheelchair. We adopted the rules from our Social 7s program.
The inaugural season involved four teams with six players per team. They played over the course of seven weeks, including a week of finals.
We trained City of Casey Stadium staff as coordinators to officiate the game and to score. We gave them the rules, scoresheets, the requirements for the playing field and equipment, and an equipment kit for the duration of the competition.
In addition to Softball Australia and Softball Victoria, a number of other organisations have played a key role in setting up and promoting the competition including Casey Stadium, Disability Sport and Recreation Victoria, City of Casey, AAA Play, Casey Softball Association and the Narre Warren Softball Club and all the teams, players and supporters that have taken part.
The ground-breaking initiative is in line with the strategic objective of our sport in growing participation and membership. It also demonstrates our commitment at national, state, and local level in providing an inclusive sport for people of all ages, culture, gender and ability and paving the way for the development of similar programs throughout the state and country.
The Social Wheelchair Softball Program was developed as part of softball’s National Inclusion Strategy in engaging more people with a disability.
From the outset, we seven targets:
We used a number of tools to check progress against our targets:
Participation and growth
In a small space of time the competition has grown from four teams involving 34 registered participants to six teams and 47 registered participants.
In season 1, of the 34 registered participants involved, 23 participants were new to softball and not existing softball members.
The success of the inaugural season has led to two additional seasons, with Season 2 in May 2019 growing from four to six teams.
In season 2, of the 47 registered participants involved, 36 participants were not existing softball members.
Of the original 34 registered participants, 24 of them (70%) returned to participate in a second season.
Spread of growth of initiative
The awareness of the initiative has spread via social media with other state softball bodies (Softball NSW and Softball NT) and local associations seeing the action on social media and decided on running wheelchair softball come and try sessions with great success. More locally, Geelong Softball Association recently delivered three social wheelchair come and try sessions in conjunction with Try Boys Stadium in Geelong.
From data collected, all participants communicated that the competition was very accessible in terms of venue access and location for people with a disability.
The youngest player involved in the first two seasons of the competition was 12 and the oldest player is 62. In season 1, of the 34 registered participants, 15 (44%) were female, in season 2, of the 49 registered participants, 26 (53%) were female. In season 1, 32% of participants had a physical disability or intellectual disability and in season 2, 34% of participants had a physical or intellectual disability.
In the evaluation survey all participants communicated that the inclusive nature of the competition was one of the things they liked most about the initiative.
In the evaluation data collected, all participants communicated that they were completely satisfied with the cost of the competition and the majority communicated that if the cost increased by $1 to $3 per person per week it most likely will not deter them from playing.
Easy to play
In the evaluation data, all participants communicated that the game was easy to play, and most communicated that the modified rules were easy to understand and follow.
All participants reported a high level of fun and enjoyment in both seasons of the competition and one of the main reasons for playing.
Social media data
|Softball Australia Social Wheelchair Softball social stats - 2019
| Post clicks
| Instagram and Twitter