Being able to know that children, like mine, across Canada, are learning softball in a fun, entertaining, and developmentally appropriate way is pretty fantastic.
Manager, Long Term Player Development Programs
The interview with Angela Ballantyne was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the manager of long term player development programs for Softball Canada and what does a typical day look like for you?
My role as Manager of Long-Term Player Development Programs is like a lot of positions within National Sport Organizations (NSO), in that I tend to be a jack of all trades. No two days are the same. Because the intent of Softball Canada’s LTPD model is to guide all decision making for our organization, my portfolio consists of many different programs and facets of our sport.
One day could be working with a committee in developing a new initiative for activating LTPD, and another could be creating programming to address gender inequities within our sport. I am lucky enough to get to wear a lot of different hats, which keeps my days exciting and new.
Typically, I work with the Provincial/Territorial Association staff daily, and that is something I pride myself on, the relationships I have built within softball. I try and go over and above for those who support the programs we develop at the National level. Working as a part of a team in a team sport environment is very rewarding.
I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a staff that cares as much as I do about the success of our sport. Working with them daily on different initiatives has allowed me to learn so many different aspects of our sport and see the inner workings of an NSO.
Softball was removed from the Olympics after the 2008 Summer games, but it was announced that softball will be back in the Tokyo Olympics. Does this change the way you’ll approach your development programs and do you think this will impact the number of kids joining softball recreationally?
Being back in the games for Tokyo has certainly been exciting for softball and we are so lucky that our Women’s National Team athletes have been able to increase exposure for softball in Canada. They are a tremendous, hard-working, and talented group of athletes who are great ambassadors of our game.
We are so excited to cheer them on in their quest for gold! All of our national team athletes, no matter the competition, are incredible role models of determination and passion for sport.
Softball Canada is constantly focused on providing a quality sport experience for participants. While the exposure from the games certainly helps, we could not only rely on that to positively impact our participation numbers.
Especially with the impacts of COVID-19, we have had to adjust aspects of our programming to ensure that parents who are registering their kids in softball know they will be not only learning skills and focusing on development but doing so in a safe manner. We want kids to have a positive experience when they play softball, that is what we hope keeps them coming back and that’s what is important.
How would you suggest future initiatives are utilized to keep softball players in Canada, rather than them pursuing an NCAA career?
The NCCA has provided so many of our athletes with an opportunity to advance their game and get a great education. And while some athletes do travel south to play, there are definitely opportunities to pursue softball in Canada as well. There are a number of Canadian Universities & Colleges sponsoring varsity Softball Teams all while providing a solid education to these student-athletes.
As we continually create different programming to support the development needs of athletes in Canada, our goal is to sustain a large pool of talented softball players.
Through our frequently updated coach education and certification, we continue to breed qualified and valued coaches – giving our athletes the best possible start and softball experience.
Some of the programs under your authority include Timbits Softball, Canpitch, Indigenous softball and more. List some of your career highlights that you feel like truly made an impact on the long term development of softball.
I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some of the top experts in Canada not only in softball but in child development.
My work with Softball Canada’s Athlete Development Matrix, most recently, is a big highlight for me. It was a tremendous group effort and getting it to the point it is right now is incredibly satisfying.
Being able to speak with coaches who are using the resource every day with their teams is really great to see. Far too often in sport, resources are created without activation, this is one I am proud to say is being utilized and with terrific results.
My work with Timbits Softball is also a highlight, working on a children’s program rooted in fun and skill development is exactly why I got into sports in the first place. My goal after graduating Sport Management was to somehow better the sports landscape for children.
Sports were such a large part of my life growing up, and I knew I wanted my own children to one day have opportunities like I had. So being able to know that children, like mine, across Canada, are learning softball in a fun, entertaining, and developmentally appropriate way is pretty fantastic.
Above all these things, the relationships I have made are my biggest career highlight thus far. I truly feel they are the best part of my time with softball, and what will have the most lasting impact on my life.
Every organization I am able to work with, every consultant, working group or committee member, every athlete, umpire, coach, or administrator I come into contact with, I hope that they have a positive experience working with me. I hope they leave that meeting or conversation knowing that I will work my hardest to support them in whatever they need to succeed in our sport.
Tell us about your passion for the sport of softball. What are your biggest goals for the game of softball within the next 5 years?
Surprisingly, I never played softball growing up (except for one tournament in grade 7). My work with Softball Canada for the past 11 years has shown me what a tremendous sport this is. How it can bring people together, and the incredible athletic skills necessary to reach the highest level of the game.
More recently, my own daughter has begun playing, and luckily because of what I get to do every day, I am committed to ensuring she gets a quality softball experience.
My passion comes from my kids and trying to foster a love of sport and physical activity within them.
My biggest goals for softball within the next 5 years to continue to create useful resources for coaches, athletes, and administrators that they can easily activate and then build upon the work we’ve been doing.
I would love to see our sport receive more exposure worldwide, it is fast, exciting and I am continually impressed by the talent I see. I look forward to 5 more years of partnerships with other sports organizations and continuing to elevate the sport of softball within Canada.
Emma's Final Thoughts
Angela Ballantyne has found a career that inspires and motivates her, while also motivating others. As someone who grew up playing softball and continued playing at a varsity level, I have a true appreciation for people like Angela Ballantyne. Softball Canada has provided me with some of the best developmental programs that allowed me to elevate my game. Speaking with Angela gives us a glimpse of the type of work Softball Canada has put into developing the game nationally. Her goal to involve herself in youth development through sport has clearly been achieved and the work she does through Timbits softball and other programs is extremely necessary. Yes, sports are competitive, but Angela Ballantyne really gets down to the root of sport and provides a fun opportunity for everyone to learn such a great game.