Going from strength to strength in national softball

Morgan Parkerson started playing Softball at school when she was 14 and now plays for the Great Britain National Softball Team, which moved up to the European A Pool in 2001
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She would like to win flights for the team to North America so they can compete in the 2010 Women’s Softball World Championships, the first time they’ve qualified for the World Championships. Softball is similar to baseball, but the ball is slightly larger (and not soft, as the name suggests), the field is slightly smaller and the ball is pitched underhand rather than overhand.

“What I love most about the game is that there are so many different aspects to it – it’s a combination of skill and speed, power and agility, hitting and fielding,” she says. “Softball isn’t very well known in Britain because it wasn’t really played here until the mid-1980s. It’s actually boomed since then and there are now more than 400 adult teams.

“The sport is only played professionally in the US and Japan, so everyone in the GB team is either working or studying. Being selected for and playing in the European Championships this summer was one of the best experiences of my life. The GB team is an amazing group of players and staff – each one of them works tirelessly to make the team better and that’s why I feel so proud to be a part of it.

“We don’t get any funding for the team. Our wonderful result in the summer – we came second in Europe, qualifying for the World Championships for the first time – was the culmination of the progress we achieved when our programme had funding. However, the World Championships next year will probably be the last time we can compete at a world level. Without funding, our programme can’t sustain the success we’ve achieved.

“Sixteen teams will compete at the World Championships and the other 15 will have public funding, ranging from lots and lots to just enough to cover the costs of competing. Only the GB team will have nothing – and that’s if we can get there. We just about managed to fund our trip to the European Championships in Spain, but doing this for the World Championships in North America is more than our players, parents and staff can afford. And you can imagine how easy it is in a recession to get commercial sponsorship for a minority women’s sport with no media exposure!

“Qualifying for the World Championships meant everything to us, but we don’t know whether we’ll be able to go. We’ve had very little success raising money so far – the flights are a major part of the total cost and winning 16 flights through Great Britons really could make all the difference. In February, we have to tell the International Softball Federation whether we will be taking up our place. I suspect that if we’ve won Great Britons, we’ll be able to say yes and will find the rest of the money we need somehow. If we don’t win, who knows…

“Winning these flight would mean we could truly aim to be Great Britons at the World Championships. It would be unthinkable for other GB or national sporting teams not to play in a World Championships they had qualified for and it shouldn’t happen to us. We played exceptionally well to earn the chance to compete against the best in the world in Softball’s pinnacle competition – it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us and we deserve to be able to go.”