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Chairman’s report to the 27th Annual General Meeting

Monday 27 November 2006, 10.41am

The 27th Annual General Meeting of the National Stoolball Association (NSA) took place on Monday 27 November 2006.

Hose-pipe bans and record high temperatures

My first thoughts when I sit down to write this report always takes me back to the start of last season and the weather that greeted us. In late April and May of this year, we had plenty of rain and not a few games were postponed, but as we progressed into June, July and August, it was soon evident that the predicted heat wave had arrived with a vengeance. Hosepipe bans and record temperatures soon saw everybody playing on fields getting steadily browner and, in some cases, on pitches which were badly cracked.

Generally, everyone came through this experience unscathed, but it may be worth remembering the virtues of protection against the sun – usually not a problem for evening games, but one worth bearing in mind for games and tournaments played during the day. Despite the downpours that we have recently experienced, most of us are still operating with hosepipe bans as reservoirs struggle to achieve acceptable levels.

Wivelsfield Green – second stoolball Convention

The main topics at our second convention, held on Sunday 12 March 2006 at the Wivelsfield Green Village Hall, were the NSA’s new ‘Child Protection Policy’ and the newly revised ‘Rules of the Game’. However, attendance was disappointingly down on that at our first convention.

The introduction of the Child Protection Policy was a requirement of the civil liability insurance cover which was an add-on to our existing public liability insurance, and it is appropriate that I should remind all leagues and clubs of the need to appoint someone from within their ranks to be the lead person on child protection matters. Details of the person responsible should be sent to Kay Price as soon as possible.

The first revision of our rules prompted much interesting discussion and the good sense in making the decision that subsequent revisions are carried out on a three-year basis. Michael Ledwich, the NSA Officer from Surrey, will be the focal point for any comment you may have arising from the application of these new rules.

As the world steadily moves towards electronic mail, the NSA introduced an annual registration form for all clubs which would give us an email address for a club contact. To date, response has generally been poor with only a 10% return from clubs, the exceptions being East Division of Sussex County Stoolball Association (thank you Toni Wheatley) and the Wessex Friendly Group of teams with Shirley Reed at the helm. Therefore, I would ask all the secretaries of clubs, leagues and associations to do all they can to ensure that this information is forthcoming as soon as possible – it will make the communication of information on stoolball so much easier.

Sport England rejects our second bid for recognition

Having been encouraged, at short notice, by Sport England to submit a second application for “recognition as a sport”, we were particularly disappointed to learn that our application had again been rejected. This time, the prime reason was that we did not play international matches.

As I reported last year, we were given to understand that Sport England was going to look at sports like stoolball on a regional basis. When challenged on this, there was a complete denial that this had ever been said. This is particularly frustrating and disappointing and brings into question the whole integrity of Sport England.

The time, effort and work that have gone into these applications has been enormous and I thank everybody who contributed to the cause but, in particular, my thanks go publicly to Kay who produced all the documentation. Our thoughts and frustrations are known to Sport England but there is little to suggest that we shall see a change in attitude.

Making things happen

I have always believed that to do nothing is to go backwards but I am pleased to report that the NSA has continued to attack on as many fronts as possible and for the contributions that the elected officers and other helpers have made, I am very proud and grateful.

At this point, I would particularly like to mention the useful contribution that Gwyn Griffith has provided; to the committee as an elected officer and to the various working groups she has been part of. Because Gwyn is a very busy person in areas other than stoolball, she has decided not to seek re-election this year. Her wholehearted support of the NSA will be sadly missed.

Sporting memorabilia collections and collectors

In January of this year, we were delighted and honoured to entertain our President’s son Michael, as he searched for material for a book he was researching. He was taken to Lewes to see W W Grantham’s papers at the Barbican Museum and then to Cooksbridge where Sussex County President, Daphne Hunt, had arranged a display of her stoolball memorabilia. From there we went to Horsham where he looked at the NSA collection of papers and equipment. His enthusiasm was infectious and we shall await with interest the outcome of his research.

Visit by David Grantham to Hampshire

Last year, I reported on a series of emails that we had received from around the world enquiring about stoolball. Included in these was the name of David Grantham, grandson of the legendary Major W W Grantham (the man who did so much to revive the game after the First World War).

Earlier this year, Shirley Reed was delighted to entertain David and his wife at her home in Hampshire when he very kindly brought with him two of the Sussex smocks that his grandfather had worn when playing and umpiring stoolball.

Videos and DVDs

With all copies of the video ‘Let’s Play Stoolball’ now sold, it was decided to move with the times and produce all future copies on DVD. This is more economic and allows us to hold smaller stocks and order when required.

The work by Melissa Mantle to produce, in conjunction with Caroline and Peter Carter of Coaching Solutions, two brand new coaching DVDs is progressing very well. The DVD will be entitled ‘Skills and drills in striking and fielding games – through the context of stoolball’. One DVD will be about the game and the other will feature drills which can be applied to any striking and fielding game.

In addition, Melissa is currently working on some work cards for teachers and coaches which will be a useful “aide memoire” during coaching sessions. As I write, these DVDs are in the final stages of production and will undoubtedly do much to promote the game to those who want to learn more about the basic aspects of coaching. My sincere thanks go to Melissa Mantle, her students at University College, Chichester and Coaching Solutions for their work in seeing this new educational pack through to fruition.

NSA website

My thanks go to Richard Emsley and Rick Mason for completing the re-design of our website. It certainly creates a much sharper image for stoolball, but we very much need clubs and leagues to make a greater effort to publicise their details through this vehicle. The game needs as much publicity as it can get and this is your opportunity, as a club or league, to let the outside world know you exist. Please make the effort.

Newsletter

Shirley Reed has worked very hard to seek out information for the NSA newsletter. The newsletter comes out twice a year, in the spring (April) and winter (November) so any results, summer and indoor league, and other snippets of information are urgently needed to make it a meaningful and informative document. I am extremely grateful for all she has done, not only on this aspect of her work, but also as my Vice-Chairman. She is knowledgeable, enthusiastic, incredibly hard working and a joy to work with. Thank you for all you have done for the NSA and stoolball.

Insurance

It is a grave danger to take anything for granted and it would be easy to do this with all the work that Richard Emsley does year on year with our public liability and personal accident insurances. He does a marvellous job and I am most grateful for the way he looks after this area of our business.

Coaching qualifications for student teachers

Melissa Mantle’s work at University College, Chichester, running coaching courses for her second year students, has successfully continued this year. This is very important work which over the years will pay dividends as we start to expand the game of stoolball into more areas of the country. Certainly, those who qualify have welcomed the opportunity of owning the ‘Let’s Play Stoolball’ video/DVD and wearing an NSA coaching sweater.

In addition, Melissa has done a great deal of promotion work for stoolball in schools throughout the south-east. One interesting development has been at Plumpton Agricultural College where mixed stoolball has just taken off and where Melissa has been asked to take a coaching course in the spring.

Local Sales Agents

Much of the credit for the continuing growth of sales of stoolball equipment, particularly bats, balls and scorebooks, is due to our hardworking and conscientious agents. To Edward and Jenny Keates in Kent, Julie Oliver in Surrey, Shirley Reed in Hampshire and the West Sussex borders, Sue Verrall in the East Sussex area and John and Barbara Fitzpatrick in North, Mid and Central areas of Sussex, I offer my sincere thanks. All have done an excellent job.

A useful addition to our equipment range this year has been a light-weight/shorter handled bat for our younger players made by Gray-Nicolls. This was introduced as a result of Keith Younger, from North Division, SCSA, being asked by players to try to shorten their bat handles. He did this very successfully and consequently a demand was created for bats with a slightly shorter handle which the NSA is now catering for.

Call from America

At the beginning of this month, I received an interesting telephone call from a lady called Sam Marchiano who is a multimedia producer for the American Baseball Clubs League and is based in New York.

Although we have been down this avenue before, she wanted help in discovering the origins of baseball. Like others before her, she believes the answer probably lies in stoolball and/or rounders. To carry out her own research, she is coming to England in June 2007 (provisionally Monday 18 to Friday 22 June) with a producer and cameraman to film both stoolball and rounders. As yet no firm itinerary has been drawn up, but I ask everybody to be ready to welcome our American guests, particularly those “with a green and leafy playing field”.

Posters and car stickers

I am pleased to report that we have already produced some stoolball posters (as the result of a suggestion at the AGM last year) and are currently in the process of providing car stickers to help promote the game of stoolball. If production goes to plan we should have supplies available for the AGM.

The posters were designed and produced through Melissa Mantle whilst Barbara Fitzpatrick has been the mastermind behind the design of the car stickers. The car stickers were an excellent suggestion made by Vic Laker during the recent general meeting held at Cowfold Sports Pavilion. It is possible that there will be a small charge for these.

Support, enthusiasm and team work

As always, I am very happy to record my thanks to Rosemary Hobbs, our long-serving President. Rosemary continues to take a very close interest in all we do and her support, enthusiasm and enquiring mind about every detail of our administration keeps us very much on our toes. It is good for us and we appreciate it.

In Peter Cheesman, our treasurer and Kay, our secretary, we have two very conscientious workers for whom no task is too demanding. Peter keeps a very close and accurate record of all our financial transactions which allows us to make decisions about expenditure with absolute confidence. Kay has remained resourceful and enthusiastic in all she does. Her knowledge of stoolball is second to none and she uses it in a kindly and team-building way.

Everybody on the NSA committee works very well as a team and makes my job a pleasant one. I am grateful for everybody’s contribution and I wish everyone success in 2007.

John Price, Chairman

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