When it comes to tireless dedication, Lynda Vinten is right up there with the best of them.
Of all the people who do their bit to promote softball at grass-roots level, few can match the commitment shown by Lynda in her home state of Western Australia.
Whether it’s playing, organising, coaching or promoting softball in the Mandurah region and beyond, Vinten Sports will be in the thick of it. And if that requires Lynda to get splattered with a cream pie in the face, so be it. Anything to help kids have fun, stay active and get into softball.
“I love softball. I’ve been playing softball for 40 years,” she says. “When you fall in love with a sport you want to keep it going for ever.”
Lynda is an active provider of the Sporting Schools program who delivers softball to special-needs youngsters and those in remote areas.
Her involvement began when she was looking to get her young son into softball. “It all started when my son was little and we were looking for programs for him to participate in because the local clubs and associations weren’t very forthcoming with little boys playing softball in summer.
“About 18 months ago I got in contact with Softball Australia and let them know that I wanted to do something to help my boy.”
Lynda says softball was a major sport in the Peel region about 20 years ago before declining in popularity. But thanks to the work of people such as herself and a small army of volunteers, things are looking better again.
“We decided to put our own teams together and be like a private playing group as well as doing the Sporting Schools program,” she says.
The result was that the number of softball teams in the region has “blown out”.
With only two diamonds, the Mandurah area doesn’t have the facilities to host a stand-alone competition, but Rockingham is only 30 minutes away and nobody seems to mind travelling.
One of the great achievements is the development of games for special-needs players. As a mother of disabled children herself, Lynda knows the importance of keeping them active and interested.
“We’ve learned to adapt and change and modify so the kids have a way to play even though they’re disabled.
“I’ve got an 18-year-old daughter who is in a wheelchair. We learned to adapt everything for her, and that’s what led us to do everything else.”
While some of the disabled players have transitioned to the regular competition, Lynda plans to establish a special-needs competition, hopefully with private funding.
Until that happens, disabled players can play in an integrated team, with a few modifications. “We had a bit of a chat to the coaches at Rockingham and we agreed that they would slow the game down for special-needs players. They wear a marked helmet, and what we normally do is put a carer or an able-bodied player on the diamond next to them.”
Recently Lynda and some fellow softball devotees attended a local children’s festival and managed to combine a softball clinic with another activity that requires throwing – a pie-in-the-face game. “My girls took 600 pies to the face that day, and the money raised paid for junior players not to have to pay fees this season.”
While softball is her passion, Lynda also helps out in other activities that benefit youngsters. Recently that included a Step-athon, in which about 1000 students from 11 schools across the Peel region gathered at Bendigo Bank Stadium in Mandurah to take part in games and physical challenges.
The activities included softball, as well as other sports and information about healthy eating and how sport can be used as a way to create stronger communities
The Step-athon was organised by Step mci, a not-for-profit organisation that provides primary schools in the Peel region with education programs about healthy eating and the importance of sport to achieve well-being.
Sadly, Lynda points out that her region has a high rate of teenage suicide.
“As a community member and as a mum, I want to do everything I can to make sure it’s not one of my kids next. I’ve got five kids and four grandsons, so I want to do what I can to keep my little monsters safe and well.
“It’s all about giving kids some physical activity that keeps them moving.”
While most of the people involved in the Vinten Sports programs are volunteers, they are rewarded in a variety of ways that have nothing to do with money.
“We absolutely love it,” Lynda says. “When you see these special-needs kids come and play, you wonder why somebody hasn’t done it sooner. They get so much pure joy out of it.
“We’ve got one special girl who comes along, and she sings to us all the way around the diamond. And you get a big cuddle at the end of the game from another girl who is in it purely for the pleasure of being happy.”
With a lack of facilities that have to be shared with local football and soccer clubs, Mandurah can’t provide year-round competition. But Lynda says the volunteers make the best use of what they have and use other events such as the Step-athon to raise awareness..
“A lot of people still don’t know that softball’s an option in our community, which is why I’m trying to get as many community events under our belt to raise awareness of the sport and let people know what’s going on.”