Two world-class players from the Dutch Women's Fastpitch Team, catcher
Nathalie Timmermans and third base player Virginie Anneveld, will bring
their skills and inspiration to the final two sessions of BSUK's
Softball High Performance Academy (HPA) this month.
The two Dutch stars will fly into London on Monday 14 April and again on Monday 28 April to add to the coaching staff for the last two HPA sessions of the spring, currently attended by five of the most promising British-based players on the GB Under-19 Women's Team.
The Softball HPA was launched on Sunday 2 March and weekly sessions have been running on Monday evenings ever since.
Other players who don't live near enough to attend the HPA sessions, which are being held at Desborough School in Maidenhead, are participating through a distance learning programme.
The Softball High Performance Academy is designed to provide additional and focused high-level coaching and other support for a small number of promising young fastpitch players aged from 14-19 to enhance their chances of selection to GB Teams and their ability to make an impact in international competition.
The programme is supported by “talent funding” awarded to BaseballSoftballUK as part of the 2013-17 Whole Sport Plan funding cycle, and the HPA is directed by BSUK National Development Manager Will Lintern.
The two-hour sessions provide intensive training, focusing on the needs of each player. Specific softball skills are improved through one-to-one coaching and multiple repetitions and this is supplemented by speed work and strength and conditioning.
The five players taking part in the sessions – Chloe and Sian Wigington, Lucy Hall, Imogen Thomas and Chelsie Robison – also spend time discussing motivation and the commitment needed to improve and succeed.
For the last two sessions before the HPA ends for the season (it will resume in the autumn), the coaching staff of HPA Director Will Lintern, former GB Women's Team Assistant Coach Robbie Robison and Matt Blake, a highly-experienced softball player and coach who has recently moved to the UK from Australia, will be supplemented by the two Dutch players, who are part of the bedrock of a team that has risen to #6 in the world under the direction of former GB Women's Team Head Coach Craig Montvidas.
Nathalie Timmermans started playing softball when she was eight years old and became a member of the Dutch National Team in 2007, holding down the starting catcher position at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 and 2012 World Championships. She has also been a three-time European Champion with the team in 2009, 2011 and 2013, and played college softball for four years in the United States. In Holland, she plays for the Sparks club in Haarlem.
Craig Montvidas said: “Nathalie is a tremendous defensive catcher and extremely good hitter, with home run power. She has consistently been one of our best hitters at world-level tournaments over the past five years.”
Virginie Anneveld started her softball when just five years old at the Tex Town Tigers club in Enschede and became a member of the Dutch National Team in 2008. Like Nathalie, Virginie has been a three-time European Champion and also played in the 2010 and 2012 World Championships. After playing for the Tex Town Tigers for 16 years, she currently plays with Nathalie at Sparks Haarlem.
Craig Montvidas said: “Virginie is one of the best (if not the best) fielding third base player in the world, and the chance is significant that she will be playing professionally next summer in Japan. She continues to be one of our best clutch hitters and has one of the strongest and most accurate throwing arms of any player I have coached.
“Besides being extremely good players,” Craig added, “both of them are on my A+ list as people. They are both dedicated to their sport, extremely professional in their approach to the game, and continually looking for ways to improve. They are excellent role models for younger players.”
HPA Director Will Lintern said, “We're grateful to Craig Montvidas and the Dutch programme for making these players available. The aim of the HPA is to expose our best young players to a rounded programme of coaching, conditioning and lifestyle instruction, and the inspiration that Nathalie and Virginie can provide and the skills and experience they can pass on will be a valuable part of the process.
“Even though it's still early days,” Will added,”the HPA seems to be the game changer we have been looking for. The environment, the coaches and the commitment of the players are precisely in line with a high-performance programme. While this is only Year 1 of the HPA, we can all see hope that this programme will pay dividends on the European and World stage for GB Softball over the next 5-10 years.”
Later this summer, from 15-24 August, the International Softball Federation’s Women’s Fastpitch World Championships will be held in Haarlem in the Netherlands – the first time the event, which began in 1965, has ever been held in Europe.
Great Britain will be participating in the 16-team event, which will feature the world’s top teams including World Champions Japan, the USA, Australia, Canada and China. Teams from every continent will be represented.
The leading team in Europe going into the event will be the team from Holland, currently ranked #6 in the world (GB is ranked #11) and winner of the last three European Championships. And later this month, the Dutch team will be helping a fledgling British programme by sending two of its world-class stars to London on 14 and 28 April to act as coaches and role models at BaseballSoftballUK’s new High Performance Academy (HPA) for softball, which began in March this year, and is designed to turn our brighest prospects aged 15-19 into potential international impact players.
Women’s fastpitch softball was an Olympic medal sport from 1996 through 2008, and hopes to be restored to the Olympic programme for 2020.