One of the first things we learned in school was our ABCs. It was the foundation of everything else we learned about reading, writing and communicating. Like many things in the world of fastpitch softball, something that starts out as pretty clear cut and straightforward can get pretty complicated.
You see the posts all the time. Teams looking for players.
“Team Unicorn is looking for a high level A pitcher to fill out our amazing roster of average players who need a great pitcher to cover up all their weaknesses!” Oops! You get the point right?
What is an A-level travel team versus a B-level versus a C-level?
What level your team is depends on many things but the reality is that, just like artwork, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Each team has the opportunity to declare themselves to be whatever level they choose. There really is no rulebook that determines which level a team should play at.
The lack of real guidelines creates two very serious problems at the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Problem number one is the pretty good team that plays in lower-level tournaments and kills everyone. Each and every week they win another championship with a string of lopsided wins and run-rule masterpieces.
Problem number two is the below average team that believes they are better than they are and enters tournaments where they get drilled over and over. They have zero fun because they are not competitive and the better teams get bored because they are not interested in playing teams far below their ability level.
So how do you know what level you belong at?
Do a little research and see what the track records are of some of the teams that enter the different events. Ask some questions of the tournament director before you send in the check. get to know some other coaches and try to see where you all fit into the food chain. After you do this fundamental research, you pick an event and see what happens.
if you get killed, you aimed too high! if you are killing everyone, you aimed too low. If you win some and lose some and the games are competitive you have guessed just right.
How much does it matter if you are an A level or a B level travel ball team? Only as much as you let it matter!
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.