Baseball Canada's Rally Cap Program
Childhood and baseball are synonymous with fun. Both provide opportunity for grass stained knees, bubble gum chewing, and are ideal for lifelong learning and development, like teamwork or throwing the perfect curve ball.
Baseball Canada knew the diamond was also ideal for young players to develop the FUNdamentals of the game. In 2006 they created the Rally Cap program.
Working with the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model, the Rally Cap program focuses on the development of FUNdamental movement skills and basic baseball techniques for players ages five through eight.
André Lachance, manager of baseball operations for Baseball Canada, says the switch to the LTAD focused program needed to happen. “Our data was showing that the first experience [for players] in baseball was not a positive one, based on the fact that baseball was not fun and that kids were not learning.”
Baseball Canada outlined four goals for the Rally Cap program. While some goals concentrate on skill and strategy, most focus on strong sportsmanship and increasing player self esteem.
To reach these goals, teams are now kept small, with only six players per dugout. Coaches are the key to player success, as the traditional competitive structure has shifted away from full-scale games. Emphasis is now on practice.
Three teams meet at the same time for a 75-minute training session. One team is always practicing, while the other two play a modified game. Every player bats and points are awarded for scoring a run, as well as for defense skills, like catching a fly ball or throwing a runner out at base. All three teams rotate twice during the training session.
Lachance says the initial transition to the Rally Cap program wasn’t easy, but actually quite difficult. “We totally transformed how baseball was played. Not only did we change from nine aside to six aside, but we added points on defense and a hat colour system based on skills acquisition.”
The hat colour system rewards players every time they demonstrate new skill acquisition. There are six skill levels in the program, all with a corresponding colored hat: white, grey, black, green, blue, and red. Players are evaluated on five main baseball skills, including base running, throwing, and hitting.
Despite the strong focus on skill development, some parents and coaches were unsure of Rally Cap. “We had resistance at the beginning, but nobody would like to go back to what it was before,” says Lachance.
The criticism has since ended and the program is stronger than ever. Baseball Canada has seen an increase in Rally Cap player enrollment. In 2011 they had 38,000 players registered. For the current season, the number now reaches 80,000.
With player enrollment climbing, Lachance says coaches and parents are both noticing big improvement in player skill. Baseball Canada plans to develop player skills assessment tool for future seasons of the program.
For now, Baseball Canada is continuing to grow the program. “We have added lots of tools over the years to enhance Rally Cap, such as a DVD, a coaching booklet with drills and practice plans and NCCP integrated training for coaches,” says Lachance.
With the success of Rally Cap, Baseball Canada is also piloting Grand Slam this season; a program for players ages nine through 11. Grand Slam builds on the FUNdamental skills already acquired and continues with LTAD development. Baseball Canada hopes to roll Grand Slam out across Canada next year.
Baseball Canada’s current goal for Rally Cap is complete implementation within every minor league in Canada. Rally Cap programs already are running in every province and Lachance knows they’re close to reaching their goal. “Québec has made [Rally Cap] a mandatory program for players this year, which is great,” he says.
As well, other countries have expressed interest and are already using the Rally Cap program. Australia utilizes the entire program and Finland, Guatemala, New Zealand, Portugal and the United States have implemented variations on Rally Cap in accordance to their organization’s needs.
For more information on Baseball Canada’s Rally Cap program, visit Baseball Canada
Baseball Canada has also teamed up with the Toronto Blue Jays this summer. To learn more about their summer baseball camps, visit Toronto Blue Jays
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