The global spread of COVID-19 contributed to a lot of unpredictability in society. Consequently, such unpredictability changed our baseball season plans and required us to make far-reaching decisions as the NGB of our sport. Making decisions in the light of a pandemic, tested our continuity and leadership.
In March 2020, at the World Baseball Classic (WBC), which the Seniors National Team (GB Baseball) was to take part in Tucson, Arizona (USA). We received word from MLB shortly before we were to begin the WBC tournament, it was postponed until further notice.
Seperately, what followed was a series of announcements from world governments of the risks and impact COVID-19 was having and going to have on society. The above was the start of planned events and their subsquent cancellations e.g., Great Britain National Team tryouts scheduled for March 2020, followed by Little League International announced suspending all activities. The UK Little League Qualifiers were cancelled. In the second year of the London Series, whereby we were supposed to witness the Chicago Cubs vs St. Louis Cardinals, at the Olympic stadium, the decision was made by MLB to cancel.
In the UK, the government announced a national lockdown that required the BBF to report the baseball seniors' cancellation regular season and youth events planned. Regardless of the impact on our sport, the most significant concern was on society. COVID-19 disrupted the lives of many, e.g., front line workers, some people lost their jobs and everyone looked for answers.
but not limited to...
- MLB: World Baseball Classic Qualifiers in Tucson, Arizona (USA) involving GB Baseball Seniors Team. 20 to 25 March, 2020
- Great Britain Baseball National Team tryouts. 21 March 2020
- BBF Opening Day. 4 April 2020.
- MLB: Mitel & MLB London Series - Chicago Cubs vs St. Louis Cardinals, at Olympic Park, London. 13-14 June 2020.
- CEB Europe Federations Cup involving the London Mets and London Capitals. 16-20 June 2020
- UK Little League Qualifiers, 20-21 June 2020
- GB Baseball U12 European Baseball Championship Tournament, 6-11 July 2020
- GB Baseball U15 European Baseball Qualifer Tournament, 21-26 July 2020BBF Seniors Regular season, April to August 2020
- BBF Youth Mix-n-Match events April to August 2020
- BBF National Baseball Championships September 2020
- BBF Youth National Baseball Championships September 2020
- Unaffilated Leagues announced the cancellation of their season.
- And more.
BBF ADDRESSES THE UNCERTAINTY
By way of background, the pandemic caused significant uncertainty and complexities in society, e.g., work, health, wellbeing and sport. We all faced challenges; the BBF needed to make rapid assessments, provide guidance and decisions. While most organisations have paid employees, the BBF is an all-volunteer organisation. The BBF are self-sufficient financially, i.e., it does not depend on public funding. Our board comprises of professionally skilled volunteers who dedicate their time and skills to ensure our Federation remains sustainable and inspires trust.
In July 2020, (after the regular British baseball season was cancelled) the government announced a framework for the return of team sport. The mentioned required all NGB's to submit safety guidelines for the safe return of their team sport. The BBF risk management code of practice was now going into full swing. Three years earlier, the BBF implemented a continuity plan that secured its assets, minimised its dependence on outsourcing agreements (BaseballSoftballUK - BSUK) and began to reduce its costs. The mentioned practice was designed to prepare the BBF to identify and mitigate its risks in the future. In 2020 at the height of the pandemic, the BBF Board decided to be dynamic, responsive, and decisive in meeting the pandemic's challenges.
Its first decision was to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the baseball community. It was evident that the pandemic was creating a considerable amount of stress on its member clubs. Member clubs were reporting, the complexities in securing answers from their local councils about whether they could play on their leased fields baseball and the financial impact on the club. As a result, the BBF Board decided to assess whether playing a full season of baseball was now likely? The answer was no. Thus, the BBF decided to cancel the regular season and National Baseball Championships (youth and adults), and it returned 100% of its members fees.
Next, the BBF collated feedback from the baseball community and decided to offer some team baseball activity. That is, a baseball game is a form of providing exercise, and well being to the baseball community. However, for the return of baseball, the BBF needed to take effective action to develop a baseball plan alternative to the regular season and moreover, safety guidelines to the government for the safe return of baseball. The BBF Board agreed to use the theory and practise of System Dynamics for the safe return of baseball.
What is System Dynamics?
System dynamics is a modelling system to collate, assess and decide on complex issues and risk. It was developed in the 1950s by Professor Jay Forrester, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). System dynamics objectives are to gather and understand the element causes of a system's behaviour. It looks at each element of a system, to determine each component's effects on the overall system to assess how different actions impact behavioural tendencies. A system is a group of interrelated elements, e.g., participants, officials, etc. In the model, when you increase a variable of element "A" it leads to an increase in "B." Similary, a fall in "A" causes a fall in 'B." The mentioned is a positive relationship. When an increase in "A" causes a fall in "B", this is a negative relationship. Loops in system dynamics are defined as positive or negative relationships. For example, negative loops stabilise the model, when positive loops tend to destabilise it.
The BBF Board made through its professional networking contacts collated research and feedback from leading global universities, and other professional health and risk entities. It used the above to organise, develop and submit a comprehensive set of safety guidelines to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). At the end of July 2020, the BBF was one of just nine National Governing Body's (NGB's) to be authorised for the return of baseball (team sport). The BBF developed a set of safety guidelines for all baseball teams (affiliated or unaffiliated) which are public click here.
As an alternative of the regular baseball season, the BBF organised, developed, and rolled out the BBF 2020 Open Baseball Tournament. For example, the tournament was open to any affilated or unaffilated baseball club across the country for no fee. The tournament turned out to be the only organised baseball event of its size across the country in 2020. The BBF solicited clubs to take part in the tournament and to make a donation to the National Health Services (NHS) Charities.
The above meant there was going to be some form of organised baseball for the shortened 2020 baseball seaon. During the BBF Open Baseball tournament, donations raised went to the NHS Charities Together, a national charity supporting NHS Charities across the UK and community projects.