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Chairman’s report to the 28th Annual General Meeting

Monday 26 November 2007, 4.22pm

The 28th Annual General Meeting of the National Stoolball Association (NSA) took place at Cowfold Sports Pavilion, Cowfold, near Horsham, West Sussex on Sunday 25 November 2007 at 11am. The Chairman, John Price, spoke about stoolball in the past year.

A tribute to our late president – Rosemary Hobbs

It is with much sadness that I start my report with a tribute to our late President, Rosemary Hobbs, who died on 2 July 2007 at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford after a relatively short illness. Her funeral took place at St Margaret’s Church, Ockley in Surrey on Thursday 19 July 2007.

Rosemary was the inaugural Chairman when the NSA was formed in 1979 and became President in 1985. She fought tirelessly to promote the game of stoolball and, even after she moved away from the south east, she regularly attended our Annual General Meetings and always had a comment to make about the progress being made.

She will be sadly missed throughout many walks of life but particularly in the world of stoolball, and perhaps her very explicit comments above the first hymn at her funeral service said everything about Rosemary and her very positive lifestyle. It read “Loud and cheerful singing please”. We all duly obliged as we embarked on ‘Guide me, O thou great Redeemer’.

A start that flattered to deceive

The red hot summer of 2006 was, we were told, to be the forerunner of an even hotter summer in 2007. Global warming was with us and we must be ready for more record temperatures.

In March and April, we were greeted with unbelievably high temperatures for the time of year, but expectations of another scorching summer were quickly dispelled as wind and rain put everybody on the back foot and secretaries in all our clubs were busy re-arranging fixtures. This pattern of postponement and the search for new dates continued into August but, by and large, all leagues completed their programmes.

Equipment

We have always been very conscious that sources of supply for stoolball equipment are important to the well-being of our game. Therefore, this year we successfully approached Hunts of Cambridge (who took over the Curtis Lloyd business for bat production) and Newbery’s based at the Hove County Cricket Ground and asked them to give us a direct supply of bats.

Both companies were happy to do this and, together with bats from Gray-Nicolls, our customers were spoiled for choice. Sadly, illness to one of their key bat makers meant that our supply of Newbery bats ran out during the summer, but we are hopeful that production will start again shortly.

Website – fixtures, results and club registration

Rick Mason’s excellent contributions to our website continued at pace in the last 12 months as more and more clubs were encouraged to place their fixtures on the NSA website. It was also encouraging to see a number of leagues putting their results and match reports on the site once matches had been played. Our aim is expand this to all clubs, whether mixed, ladies or junior, so that by the time we get to 2012 and the huge influx of sporting visitors to the UK, we shall have the details of every club in the land on our website.

It is a further aim to link our website match results, reports and league tables to the appropriate local papers so that information about all clubs is freely available to the press. Clubs and leagues need to build relations with their local papers to make the most of this opportunity.

The start we have made on recording up-to-date and accurate information on clubs playing stoolball needs to progress quickly if we are to have an accurate database that will steer new members and visitors to your club.

I ask all secretaries to make the completion of a 2008 club registration form a must in the coming weeks and months. Hard copy forms are available from Kay Price or there is a copy available on our website.

There are now national initiatives in being where everybody is being encouraged to participate in at least three 30 minute sessions of activity every week. Our game of stoolball fits that bill very nicely, so make sure that people living near your club know that there are opportunities for them to join you. (At the AGM, ask for copies of the NSA posters so that you can publicise your club this winter. Don’t wait until next April, do it now!)

There will be much publicity through sporting agencies, such as the County Sports Partnerships, to promote this campaign of at least “3 x 30 per week” and it may well be that those of you working for larger employers, such as banks, insurance companies, the civil service, national utilities etc, could take advantage of this publicity to introduce stoolball for a lunchtime or early evening activity.

Another interesting addition to our website, which should add a little more “life”, is a short video clip of stoolball which will enable the many people visiting our site can see what stoolball is all about.

Club accreditation

Anybody involved in organised sporting activity from rugby and cricket to netball and hockey will know that there is a national requirement and expectation that the facilities and environment that the sport is played in is well structured, disciplined and above all else a safe and happy one. Clubs that match up to these basic requirements are generally recognised as accredited clubs.

The title varies from sport to sport, but demonstrates that clubs with such a title meet the needs of the sport’s scheme. Such accreditation is also a very helpful passport for accessing funding streams and for participation in the increasingly popular “team/coach/unsung hero” of the year awards.

Our continuing work with Sport England, Central Council of Physical Recreation (CCPR) (to whom we are affiliated) and the various County Sports Partnerships also makes it very clear that sports that have such an accreditation scheme are the ones they will actively work with and encourage. To this end, I am extremely grateful to Kevin Hilliard, who joined the NSA Committee this year as a co-opted member, for the excellent work he has done in drawing up our NSA Club Accreditation Scheme and attending CCPR and Sports Partnership meetings.

Umpires’ Forum at Wivelsfield Green

On Sunday 13 May 2007 we held our first-ever Umpires’ Forum at Wivelsfield Green, just outside Haywards Heath. Although overall numbers attending were not as high as had been expected (hoped), much useful ground was covered ranging from health and safety issues and knowledge of the rules to dangerous bowling and umpires working as a team. Following next year’s rules revision, it may be necessary to hold further national umpiring forums and details will be circulated as necessary.

My thanks to John Fitzpatrick, another co-opted Committee member, who planned and delivered the forum and to Barbara, his wife, who provided the necessary support, particularly on the refreshment front.

Coaching DVDs

Just prior to the start of the season, we launched two new DVDs for use primarily in schools and clubs on the ‘Skills and Drills in Striking and Fielding Games – through the context of stoolball’. DVD 1 deals with coaching and DVD 2 with practices. Our thanks go to Melissa Mantle of University College, Chichester and her students who took part in and delivered the coaching and drills and to Coaching Solutions who filmed, edited and produced the DVDs.

These DVDs will be at the forefront of our efforts to encourage all schools to play stoolball, now that it is part of the National Schools Curriculum from 2008 to 2011. We are now working very closely with Sport England South East, the Youth Sport Trust, The National Council for School Sports and CCPR to optimise this marvellous opportunity.

We are also setting up a working party to look at every aspect of the school marketplace and what we need to do to bring stoolball to the forefront of school sporting activity. This is a great opportunity which all clubs should eventually derive benefits from through increased membership.

Promoting stoolball and the NSA

With a number of clubs throughout the counties struggling to maintain playing numbers, the NSA has recognised the need to promote the game of stoolball wherever possible.

Our first efforts outside the NSA website have been the production of posters for clubs to use on local noticeboards in village and town centres as well as on company premises. We have also produced simple car stickers promoting stoolball as a game “for all ages and abilities”. A modest start maybe, but we aim to build on this initiative by producing a tri-fold leaflet for use in information centres, libraries and leisure centres to reinforce the message about stoolball. Work is well in hand and we will issue further details as soon as we can.

We have also worked hard this summer to tell you more about the NSA and the equipment we have available by paying visits to tournaments run by Stonewall Park (Kent), Mid Sussex Mixed League (Plumpton College), Chanctonbury and Coastal Leagues (Walberton) and Sussex County SA (Seaford and Plumpton). It was good to see the game thriving and many helpful contacts were made.

We shall endeavour to continue this exercise in the coming year and would welcome invitations if we can help promote your league or event.

Equipment – donate a bat

With more and more schools and clubs asking for help with equipment to get the game started, we have asked clubs to go through their bat bags to see if they could donate a bat to our “bats for schools” fund. For each bat donated, we have given a brand new stoolball in return. We are most grateful to East Preston, Little Common, Horsham Trinity and Steyning stoolball clubs for already donating bats to this very good cause. Could you help too?

Some of the bats needed refurbishment with new rubber grips and a general sanding down being high on the list. All this work has been carried out for the NSA by Keith Younger of East Grinstead Stoolball Club. He has done a superb job, not only on these bats, but also in refurbishing a large number of old wickets which we have been able to lend to schools such as Highfields School in Penn, near Wolverhampton, Patcham School near Brighton and Hurst Green School in East Sussex.

Richard Emsley retires

Richard Emsley has finally decided to call an end to his many years of service to the NSA which started in 1979 with his attendance at the association’s inaugural meeting. In 1985 Richard succeeded Ron Edwards as Secretary of the NSA and continued in this role until 1990, and also undertook the vacant Publicity role in 1989-90. Having enjoyed a break of 6 years he came back in 1997 to take on the Publicity role again and, in 1998, on the retirement of the Insurance Officer Brian Johnson, he took over that position as well.

As we moved into 2000, it became clear that we needed to have a presence on the world wide web and again it was Richard who volunteered to pilot us into this new world of communication. Richard’s contribution to stoolball and the NSA has been huge and we are deeply indebted to him for the commitment and enthusiasm that he has given to our game. I would also like to record my thanks to his wife Pauline for the understanding and support she has given Richard over the last 28 years.

We all wish Richard our sincere thanks and very best wishes for continuing success with his road walking for Steyning Athletic Club and his work with the Arun and Wey Canal Restoration project.

Major league baseball media group visit

After 9 months’ planning Sam Marchiano (Producer), together with camera and audio crews, and David Block (leading baseball historian) arrived in Horsham on 19 June to film rounders and stoolball as part of their film to trace the origins of the game of baseball. This contact and subsequent publicity for stoolball, through BBC Radio Southern Counties and TV South Today, would not have happened if we had not had a presence on the world wide web.

It was a very hectic few days but well worthwhile in raising the profile of our game. We are now very close to receiving the final results of all their filming. In particular, I would like to thank all those members of Horsham Trinity and Angmering Stoolball Clubs for their contributions to this film.

Your committee – my thanks

This year has seen your committee take on more projects than have ever been tackled in the past and, whilst some of them still have distance to run, I can say that this has been a happy and hard working group to work with and for that I am extremely grateful.

Shirley Reed has brought her very wide knowledge, enthusiasm and sound common sense to the job of Vice-Chairman. Her support and guidance has been invaluable in a strenuous and difficult year.

Peter Cheesman, as always, has faithfully and accurately recorded all our financial activities and brought to the table a wide range of experiences that have helped to steer us through some interesting situations. He is utterly reliable and totally committed.

As I write these notes, we have just had a communication from Sport England to say that they are in the process of reviewing (for the third time) stoolball for “recognition” as a sport. This is good news and is a direct result of the tremendous lobbying that your Secretary has done over the last 4 years to keep stoolball on many sporting radar screens. This has been an ongoing mission and sits beside a very busy time being the eyes and ears of stoolball.

To Shirley, Peter, Kay and all members of the NSA Committee, my sincere thanks for all that has been done to achieve a wider acceptance of stoolball. We need more people, particularly younger ones, to help us to keep moving forward as a sport and to achieve the recognition our game deserves. Perhaps you have a contribution you would like to make?

Enjoy your winter break and all the very best for 2008.

John Price
Chairman

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