St. Stephen – Local softball coaches make their pitch: ‘try it, you’ll like it’
Mike Bourque and Maurice Gullison have a common goal. Bring softball back to Charlotte County.
Last year, Gullison put the plans in motion, and started a U18 softball team, which played in the exhibition Fundy Girls League – a league with Sussex, Kennebecasis, and Saint John.
The team was a starting point to create interest in the area, with the hope of growing a softball program. Now, Gullison and Bourque have joined forces to take the next step, and start a middle school team.
“This year, we’re looking at trying to do 14 and under – Grade 5 to Grade 8 – to start a softball program here for girls.”
If there is enough interest for a middle school team, Gullison said the hope is to start the Learn to Play program – a 10 week program through Softball Canada – for children 10 years and under.
Last year, Gullison had 20 girls participate on his U18 team.
“We played ball all summer. We didn’t win any ball games, but we had fun, and it taught them how to play ball.”
Gullison said the teams will be playing orthodox softball, instead of whip pitch.
“It allows the girls to play ball, ‘cause when you’re in whip, it’s all about pitching, and hitting kinda comes, but if you’re playing orthodox, it’s all about playing defence. Everybody can hit orthodox, and playing orthodox allows everybody the opportunity to play.”
Bourque and Gullison have compared their vision to a softball program in Kennebecasis – a program that now boasts more than 500 participants.
“Just seeing what KV did, and going from 50, 60, 70 girls, to where they are now – I don’t expect us to get to 500, but I want enough girls involved to allow them the opportunity to go out and play something that is fun,” Gullison said.
Having known each other “for quite a few years,” as they have coached in the area, Gullison, a high school coach, and Bourque a middle school coach, came up with the idea after wanting to create a feeder program for the high school.
“I used to coach softball at the middle school years, and years ago, and so when I talked to Maurice about the high school, he said ‘jeeze, it would be nice if we had kids playing at the middle school?’”
Bourque said, adding the middle school start would give the players time to understand
the game before they got to high school.
“The goal is to have a feeder program, like basketball and soccer does. Middle level, even elementary, and then it also provides that support for the girls.”
Initially, Bourque and Gullison are looking to have three or four practices, to gauge interest. Though nothing is set in stone, the program would run until the end of July. Games would be six innings, or an hour and a half.
“I want to make this a fun thing. It’s about letting them have fun, getting some exercise, and learning a new sport.
“It’s not a hard sport to play; everybody can play softball,” Gullison said, while Bourque agreed.
“It’s that sense of accomplishment; batting and hitting the ball. When anybody feels like they’ve accomplished something, they’ll want to come out and see what more they can accomplish, so giving them the encouragement to come on out, and develop a skill in a
sport they may not have considered,” Bourque said.
There will be an information meeting, open to those who may be interested in playing softball, or for anyone who may be itching to dust off their glove, to lend a hand as a coach.
The meeting is slated to take place Monday, May 8, in the library at the St. Stephen Middle School, at 7 p.m.
Both Bourque and Gullison stress for those who want to play, no experience is necessary.
“People ask me all the time why I still coach; my kids aren’t involved, but it’s the enjoyment of – with my high school girls, they get a hit or they catch a ball, and it’s the expression on their face.
“I like the win, but it’s more having the fun, and getting them to achieve their personal goals, and just being able to finally get a hit, and you’d swear, it’s unbelievable, but you’d swear we just won the World Series,” Gullison said, smiling.
“And that’s what it’s all about; teach them how to go out and have some fun,
while getting some exercise. Everybody can play softball.”