The International Softball Federation marked International Women’s Day with a ringing endorsement from BackSoftball Task Force Co-Chair Donna de Varona
Plant City, Florida (USA); 9th March 2009: The BackSoftball campaign has underlined its credentials to return the sport to the Olympic Games programme with its latest initiatives to promote the popularity of softball among women around the world.
The International Softball Federation marked International Women’s Day with a ringing endorsement from BackSoftball Task Force Co-Chair Donna de Varona, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Women in Sports Commission.
Ms. de Varona said, “I have long been passionate about the importance of promoting equality in sport. Because softball caters to a multitude of talents and is adaptable to many venues it offers a unique participation opportunity. Since the addition of softball on the Olympic programme in 1996, participation worldwide has doubled. A sold out venue for the women’s fast pitch Olympic competition in Fengtai Softball Field in Beijing last August when Japan captured the gold medal is testimony to the growing popularity of the game.
“But softball goes beyond just elite competition, with a wide range of initiatives to promote the sport to wider audiences, such as to women from Muslim countries that don’t always get access to team sports. The ISF has initiated new, innovative programs. Just last week I was in Abu Dhabi at the Generations For Peace Camp ‘09 where Muslim women were learning how to use softball as a tool to promote peace among young people from divided communities.”
The ISF shares the IOC’s vision to make female participation in sport and sports administration a priority, with – among several other examples – Stella Ackrell having become British Softball Federation President last year; Sue Noble appointed CEO of Softball Australia at the beginning of 2009; Rosa Hilda Quan de Vigil recently becoming the El Salvador Softball Federation's new secretary general, and Portugal Softball Federation President Sandra Monteiro having just been elected to the executive board of the Portuguese Olympic Committee.
Last year the ISF instituted the Athlete Ambassadors program, which gives a voice to and provides an active role for female softball players from around the world in helping the world governing body work toward the reinstatement of the sport to the 2016 Olympic Games programme. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Michele Smith is the chair of the group.
Two-time Olympic softball athlete Jessica Mendoza (USA) took over on January 1 as the president of the Women's Sports Foundation, further underlining the ISF’s commitment to BackSoftball’s ten point blueprint, with point #4 being: "Place even greater emphasis on opportunities for women in sport."
ISF President Don Porter said, “Softball is enjoyed by men and women all over the world, but I am proud of our record to provide more opportunities for women within softball that aren’t just restricted to the field of play. Whether it’s kids playing in the park or the elite athletes who have participated in Olympic tournaments, softball is accessible to all and that is something I am extremely proud of.”
Of the members of the ISF Executive Council, 33% are female, including the ISF’s Deputy Secretary General Low Beng Choo (Malaysia), who will be one of four female representatives that softball will have in their seven-person delegation at the upcoming SportAccord in Denver, Colorado (USA) (March 23-27).
All of this is further proof of the ISF’s commitment to extend the reach of softball after a hugely successful Beijing Olympic Games last year, which enjoyed sellout crowds. The gold medal game of the women’s fast pitch event was won by Japan, with huge television audiences around the world watching their victory over the USA.
For more information please contact ISF Director of Communications Bruce Wawrzyniak at brucew@internationalsoftball.