It’s sometimes overlooked in favour of more popular sports – or confused with baseball – but Cheetahs Softball Club president Kerry Laird says softball is a fun, easy game the whole family can play.
And the City of Whittlesea is lucky to be home to several clubs, all based at Mill Park Recreation Reserve: the Cheetahs, Monarchs, Rebels and Dragons.
Kerry is eager to see more players take up the sport, which she says is suitable for all ages and abilities.
She returned to softball aged 40, after playing at high school – and says it took plenty of courage to pick up the phone and join a club.
“It was one of those things, I loved it so much in high school, and I always thought “find a club, find a club” but I worked, got married, had children,” Kerry says.
“But in my children’s school newsletter there was an ad and I gave the lady a call and she said ‘come on down’ and I thought I was going to die; I couldn’t breathe because it had been so long.
“That was a huge step, making that phone call, to be honest.”
Eighteen years on, Kerry lives and breathes softball, and is passionate about attracting more members to the club.
She says softball is sometimes confused with baseball – of which it is an off-shoot – but uses a different sized ball, bat and diamond, and underarm pitching.
“There’s a bit of a myth that softball is for girls and baseball is for boys, but that’s really not true,” she says.
“It’s a great opportunity for all family members, mum and dad with the children can join in, and that’s usually what happens at the grassroots level.
“It just gives you a lot of skill levels that you can attain, with your throwing, fielding, batting, running.
“Whatever you put into it, that’s what you get out of it.”
The club has about 60 members ranging in age from four to 70.
It also provides support for autistic players, and has several members whose participation needs are met with modified programs.
Several players, including Kerry's daughter, Caitlin, 18, have represented Victoria and Australia.
Kerry says the club competes with more common sports to attract members – a challenge she is tackling, especially in the wake of Covid-19.
“We struggle against soccer and footy and netball and basketball, those very common sports, and a lot of them are inside, they can be played year-round, that’s another thing we struggle with,” she says.
“People have been physically idle for such a long time, and I really want to let them know you don’t have to be very active and elite to join.”
Kerry says new players are welcome to attend training sessions for free and have a go, with gloves, helmets and bats provided.
For more information, including training times, visit https://cheetahs.softball.org.au/