By Alfred Koroma
The training session at SS Camp Field, Regent in Freetown
Philadelphia Adults League Softball (PALS), a US based organization, has in partnership with Vintage Academy, embarked on four-day training of 150 kids with softballs and baseballs skills.
The training is provided for kids from Vintage Football Academy and other four different clubs.
The four-day skills camp is organized to introduce young kids to the USA softball and baseball sporting activities in partnership with other football academies in the country.
“It is to have kids out there having fun and learning a new activity and getting kids that like to play football to get experience about another sport, so they can get more sporting activities, says Kelly O’Connor, one of the Directors of PALS.
Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams that take turns batting and fielding. The game moves ahead when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball that a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat.
Softball akin to baseball played with a larger ball on a field that has base lengths usually of 60 feet. Both games were reinstated in the Olympic programme in Japan after being absent since the Beijing 2008 Games.
But Kelly O’Connor said one of the biggest problems with baseball and softball is that their equipment are so expensive all over the world.
During the training, she said they have noticed people are interested in the sport. So, she said they targeted interested kids to train them, provide them with the equipment and the training to make the game last long and sustainable in Sierra Leone. It’s a long term partnership, she said.
With donations from members of the league and others from the public, PALS provides each of the 150 kids camped with feeding, T-shirts and other supplies for free.
“We just find out that people are interested; there are a lots of athletes and they like all sport,” she said.
Alie Badara Kargbo, a US based Sierra Leonean and a member of the League said the goal of running the four days softball camping is to inspire and motivate the kids, give them the platform to display their skills and make them feel they can play the game.
“You don’t need to be a professional to play the game. You just need to pay attention to it and you will be able to be successful in it. We just want to show them that they can play it,” he told the press.
When asked about PALS’s collaboration with the Government to introduce the sport into the sporting discipline of the country, Kargbo said the deputy Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs will grace the closing ceremony of the entire process.
Before embarking on the project, PALS first conducted a feasibility study in the country before getting the kids selected with a pre-training conducted for them. They were coordinated through Abu Bakarr Jabbie, owner of Vintage Academy, a football academy in Lumbley and Lakka.
Responding to a question from Concord Times on how successful kids from a football academy will adapt to a different sporting activity, Jabbie said the kids had expressed interest in the game before they were selected. They will also be able to play both football and softball, he said, adding they are working to include the game into the country’s sporting disciplines.
The kids, playing the bat-and-ball game in groups, appear happy and seemed enormously interested in the new game.
“I feel happy because I have never seen a game like this. It is motivating. I learned how to throw and bat. I have interest in the game and I will motivate other kids when I grow up,” Jaward Christian Coker, one of the kids said.
Another kid, Hanna Lynch said she like the game because it fun and easy and also because she wants to be in sport. “We learn how to throw the ball how to defend and how to catch. I find the game very interesting. I am having fun. It is very easy. I plan to go further with the game because I want to be part of sport, Lynch expressed.
Apart from the softball and baseball training, the League will also be having a one day training program with the Sierra Leone cricket Association for 150 kids. The team also brought in supplies for animals which will be given to the Sierra Leone Animal Society. They are also setting football clubs with equipment and the trainings, Kelly O’Connor noted.