There’s a new game in town! Oh, it’s still fastpitch softball, it’s just being marketed in a new and, in many ways, very interesting way.
Several of the governing bodies of fastpitch have started creating different levels of what are being generically called “All-American” teams. PGF, USA Softball, Under Armour Softball Factory and others are creating teams that are compiled from an area and having them compete on a national level.
This is a fairly new phenomenon, so I’m still learning about these programs too.
First off, any time we give an opportunity for players to play this game, I think that is a good idea. I’m sure the players playing in these early iterations of these programs are having a great experience. There is no doubt that playing with other people who are just as committed to the game as you are is also helping to create great memories for everyone involved.
So assuming these programs take off, and I’m guessing they will, where does it go from here. I have some questions that I do not have the answer to but I’m going to raise them for us to all ponder while we see these programs grow.
Will these programs become a major part of the recruiting process?
I think the answer to this questions will be tied to one very simple question. Are these players truly competing for a spot on the team or is it just another “if-you-pay-the-fee-you-make-the-team” program? If it is truly competitive, I believe college coaches will take notice of players making the “All-American” teams. If it is the latter it just becomes another cash grab.
How are the “All-American” players chosen?
If there are competitive tryouts where players are evaluated by some “impartial” group of coaches or evaluators, then I feel it creates a program that helps players develop their skills and take their games to a higher level. Knowing that you are competing for something you value is a great learning experience for any player. If the only criteria is that your check clears, then I have serious doubts.
What is the cost to each “All-American” player?
Nothing is free in the world of travel ball fastpitch. Ever! What does each player pay for? What is covered by the sponsoring groups? What is the profit margin? Are all reasonable questions. I understand that these groups are in business and I am clearly on-record that when you’re in business, your goal should be to be profitable. Now where that profit comes from and how that business markets these opportunities while making that profit is where I feel we get off track, quite often.
Having been around the block more than a few times and seeing many different “we are doing it for the kids” programs. I can’t judge anyone’s intentions when these programs are started, but I can tell you that what starts out as “for the kids” has almost always turned into a “look at all the money I have in the bank” reality.
Stay to play, 70-minute games, drop-dead games, and all-star games in Colorado are some examples of things that I believe were originally marketed as being great for the kids that I have serious doubts about.
As always, this should be a buyer-beware opportunity. If something seems to good to be true, we know it usually is. We just don’t have a big enough sample size to know for sure!
What will we think of these programs in 10 years? I hope we are talking about how amazing the “All-American” program is. But…
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.