Australia Day Honour for softball pioneer

Australia Day Honour for softball pioneer

One of softball’s most influential pioneers has been recognised in the Australia Day Honours List.

Ray Allsopp, 82, whose vision and enthusiasm led to the formation of the Waverley Softball Association in suburban Melbourne in 1961, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Ray Allsopp, OAM

Ray Allsopp, OAM

The award was for “service to sport, particularly for school children”, recognition of Ray’s tireless work not only with softball but also with VFL/AFL football, in which he was involved for more than 50 years.

A major achievement of his career in football administration was the establishment of a junior clinic scheme that was the precursor to what is now called Auskick, which features more than 160,000 young players and has been used a model for junior sports around the world.

Having played 54 VFL games for Richmond from 1955-59, Ray worked in football administration and later left his teaching job to become the first person appointed to a full-time development position in football. His work over 50 years led to him being made an AFL Life member in 2009.

While softball has a lower profile than football in Victoria, Ray’s work with softball was no less important. Under his guidance, the Waverley Softball Association developed into one of the largest and most successful clubs in Australia. 

As a teacher at Glen Waverley Primary School, Ray was able to attract many new players to the sport. His model for a school softball program was eventually adopted as part of the physical education curriculum, replacing rounders.

While still playing in the late 1960s, Ray coached his A-Grade team to four premierships in five years. His innovative coaching strategies have been copied by many other coaches since, although Ray could not coach at a higher level because of rules at the time that prevented men coaching women’s teams at state level.

As the Waverley association grew, it needed better facilities. Ray was instrumental in convincing the local council to develop Jells Park into a high-standard softball venue. At its peak, Waverley had more than 2200 registered players.

The honour for Ray Allsopp was supported by the Waverley Softball Association and the AFL.

International Softball Hall of Fame member Denise Hutchinson (Daynes), said in her submission: “I believe Ray Allsopp is very worthy of and Order of Australia Medal award, not only as a player of football and cricket, but as a coach and administrator in softball.”

AFL Victoria High Performance Manager Anton Grbac also supported the award, citing Ray’s “outstanding contribution to Australian Football”.

Jells Park

Ray Allsopp led the way in the development of Jells Park.

The official citation for Ray Allsopp, OAM

MEDAL (OAM) OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA IN THE GENERAL DIVISION

Australia Day 2017

Mr Raymond Arthur ALLSOPP, 2206/50 Albert Road, South Melbourne Vic 3205

For service to sport, particularly for school children.

Service includes:

  • Founder, Waverley Softball Association,1961 and Manager, 1961-1980 and Executive Committee Member, 1961-1980 and Life Member, 1975.
  • Involved in establishing the Australian Football League AusKick Program, 1977. Research, Resources and Development Officer, Australian Football League Victoria, 1988-2008.
  • Executive Officer, Junior Football Council of Victoria, 1974-1988.
  • Editor, Junior Football Magazine, 1976-1988.
  • Player, Richmond Football Club, 1955-1959 and Life Member, Australian Football League, 2010.
  • Player, Coach, Administrator and Development Officer for Softball, ‘for 50 years’ and volunteer, ‘for 25 years’ and as a fulltime professional in Australian Football with the Victorian Football League/Australian Football League, ‘for 35 years’.
  • Involved in the establishment of the infrastructure for the Waverly Women’s Sports Centre at Jells Park for community softball and netball, 1971.
  • First person to design a modified program model for the introduction of children to sport, 1977. The model is now used widely in government programs and other sports.