Alongside 13 other members of the Australian women’s baseball squad I spent the first half of May 2017 in Indonesia undertaking the third ‘Diamonds in The Rough’ program to empower Indonesian girls through baseball, and what a fantastic opportunity it was! Having been involved in the program’s second trip in November last year, I was really excited about the chance to be back again and this time we were really able to see the changes that the Diamonds in the Rough program is making. 

The May 2017 program was the third to Indonesia,  where squad members of the Boral Australian Emeralds taught local schoolgirls baseball skills and developed their self-confidence through mentoring workshops.

Diplomacy through sport isn’t a new concept, but the Diamonds in the Rough program is the first to see an Australian women’s national team deliver a program aimed at engaging and empowering schoolgirls from one of our most important international neighbours.

Funded by the Australian Government through the Asian Sports Partnerships small grants fund, the program has been shown to improve self-confidence in previous participants by  over 33% and aims to show girls that they can make choices for their future beyond what they may have previously been told.

Building a rapport and relationship with the participants and their families has been a fantastic experience for all. The parents and community members that we got the chance to talk to throughout the program couldn’t praise it enough – they are able to witness the change in the participants, not just from the baseball side, but also their improved overall positivity. One father of a local Balinese schoolgirl I talked to loved the program, saying it does so much more than just teaching baseball. “My daughter has never had an opportunity like this before,” he said. “Being coached by these Australian players and building her self confidence is so important for her. I wish the Emeralds would come back regularly so that even more children can have this opportunity.”

A key supporter of the Diamonds in the Rough program is Charlie King, founder of the No More campaign to reduce family violence started here in Australia. Charlie joined the program on this most recent trip, bringing his strong message to program participants about the importance of linking up and speaking out about domestic violence.  One in three Australian women will be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetimes, and the statistics show the figure is even higher in Indonesia, so the program realises the importance of the No More campaign for both the Australian and Indonesian participants. As a mother of young kids myself, I was proud that the Australian Women’s Baseball Team are ready to tackle the issue of domestic violence head on, in such a public program. The message is one that has been strongly backed by Baseball Australia, with the Australian Baseball League being the first national sports league to support the campaign.

In addition to the skills clinics and off-field workshops with the Indonesian girls, the Emeralds squad also engaged the local community through exhibition games against the local men’s baseball teams. The squad was a combination of veteran Emeralds and those working to make their first open national team, and with two games played in Bali and two in Bandung, the team members also had the chance to refine and demonstrate their skills to Australian coaches Simone Wearne and Anthony Bennett during the trip.

“We have had a great response to the Diamonds in the Rough program so far,” head coach Wearne said “With hundreds of Indonesian girls participating in our workshops over the May program, it was fantastic to see the impact we can make on so many young lives. These local girls have a rare chance to build powerful and lasting relationships with positive Australian role models and they comment often about how happy they are to be mentored by this group of strong and passionate women – one girl said our squad are like real-life super heroes.”

The program saw the Emeralds squad running workshops, training sessions and playing exhibition games in  Bandung, West Java and Bali during May 2017, with previous programs also being held in Jakarta.

Get Involved: For information on women’s baseball in South Australia, including our local women’s league, training opportunities and State team involvement please check out the Baseball SA Women’s League Facebook page here

To keep up to date with the Diamonds in the Rough program, head to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Diamondsintherough2016