OTTAWA – The Rally Cap program has brought back the passion in minor baseball in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec. For ten weeks, this program has allowed children to be introduced to the sport, have fun and develop some of the basic skills of the game.
Over 70 kids from the ages of 4 to 7 in the region have participated in the program, which was launched by Baseball Canada three years ago. But in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Rally Cap is only in its first year.
“It’s been a wonderful success. It’s a very interesting program and the kids are having lots of fun while learning to play the game,” says the man in charge of the Rally Cap program in the region, Daniel Gagnon. “If this program helps develop elite level players, that’s great, but the primary goal is to introduce the game at a grassroots level. And so far, it’s going really well.”
The Rally Cap program has four objectives it wants to achieve:
· Create an environment in which children and adults can have fun with baseball
· Teach baseball skills, rules and strategies to our players
· Model and teach competitiveness with an emphasis on good sportsmanship
· Promote increased self-esteem among Rally Cap children and adults
The Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu minor baseball league has 110 registered players in the novice category this season. Of that number, 74 are also registered for the Rally Cap program. About 80% of the participants are boys.
What started on June 20 and will go until August 22, the kids, parents and coaches meet every Saturday and 10 AM until 11:30 AM for a Rally Cap practice. The players also play two games every week.
“That’s how we’ve implemented it this year, but it could change next year,” says Gagnon. “It is possible that we the program and the games to two days a week. It would also be a good idea to divide the kids into two groups, putting together the 4 and 5 years old in one group and the 6 and 7 year olds in the other. The 6-7 year old group can have one practice and one game a week, while the program for the 4-5 year olds would be 80% practice and 20% mini-games.”
The Rally Cap program is a learning tool for the basics of baseball within about a dozen practices. The fundamentals are what is keyed on mostly during practices.
At least twice every summer, the players are evaluated on their level of abilities in order to earn a coloured hat, a system similar to that of karate.
The kids are given a white hat at the beginning of the program. From there, the kids try to reach the next level during their first evaluation. In total, there are six levels and coloured hat to attain in order to complete the program. The other colours in the program are grey, black, green, red and blue.
In the region, the program is delivered by a committee of five people. Along with Gagnon, there are three people responsible for practices (Stéphane Ferrera, Éric Chalifoux and Yves Désourdy), as well as Patrick Lamontagne who is the director of the novice category.
Also, many of the parents get involved to help with practices. The recruitment of volunteers has not been a problem according to Gagnon.
The Rally Cap program has seen a positive beginning in the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu minor baseball league. There is reason to believe that the program will help grow the game in the region for years to come.
“With all this success, we can anticipate that there will be more kids registering for the program next year. Everything is in place for baseball to become the sport of choice once again for the kids aged 4 to 7 in the region who want to have fun during the summer,” says Gagnon.