Once upon a time you had to work your butt off to qualify for”nationals”! For many years, the goal was to get to the ASA Gold Nationals in 18U and the ASA age group nationals for everyone else.
Come on old timers, you remember those days? I know you do. You were a jet flying, limo driving, son of a gun when you made it!
It meant playing in the first qualifier of the summer and continuing to play in qualifiers until you made it. For many teams, that meant traveling someplace, often, the weekend right before the national event started, to qualify.
Did it sting to work all summer and come up short? Of course it did, but qualifying also meant something! Just making it to the field of 64 meant you were something special and deserved a great deal of credit.
So what happened?
First, we can’t possibly expect players to be disappointed, so we have to be sure they get to play in a “national” (World Series, Cup) tournament. It started with ASA allowing many, many more teams in the age group events. I’ve been to “nationals” with more 200 teams. Pretty special, huh? Then we had to have other groups to offer “national” events to allow more kids to feel the pride of accomplishment that comes with working so hard to qualify for such a “prestigious” event.
Second, no-one is running a nationals or World Series or Cup out of the goodness of their heart! They are making bank, count on it. Whether it is direct profit from running the event or secondary profit because of all the tourism dollars they are bringing in, money is being made. Gordon Gecko said it best in Wall Street, “Greed is good!” and if that greed allows another bunch of kids to celebrate a national championship, all the better!
Third, where would we be if we couldn’t listen to the non-stop arguing about which group is the “real nationals”? The never ending chest thumping and crowing about why our nationals are the real nationals is part of what makes the softball world go round. come on now you all know that the ______ are the real nationals, just ask whoever is playing in them!
Fourth, everyone wants to validate their efforts and nothing validates more than hardware! Stanley Cup, Borg Warner Trophy, Larry O’Brien Trophy or Vince Lombardi Trophy ain’t nothing compared to the ABCD National World Series Cup, right?
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.