How do we get more young kids involved in playing this great game? One of the things we tried to keep in perspective when we started Fastpitch Prep was the fact that, even though our experience was at the highest levels of the sport, that there are many more players at the recreational level than there will ever be in the college game. We wanted to be sure to include those groups into the services we offered and the information we share. Let’s take a shot at answering that question.
Too often the local league or or recreational league are stigmatized as being inferior. They are judged against the quality of play found in travel ball and in that comparison, the travel team is likely to be superior in the quality of play. However, that should not mean that the recreational league is less important.
Travel teams should be a stronger team than the local league team. Logic tells us that when you are selecting players from an unlimited pool of talent that you can assemble a more experienced and talented group than the team you are likely to find when you build a team from a group of kids who live within a certain area.
Obvious, right? Yes, but again, that doesn’t mean the local team isn’t important. I would argue that the local team, the recreational league team, is much more important than the travel ball team for developing the youngest players. Kids need to start somewhere. The local league is where that happens.
Do we want more young kids to play fastpitch softball? Of course we do! And we know that they are going to start in the local recreational league. How do we make that happen?
Here are a couple ideas:
Stop talking about “rec league” like it is the weak link in the chain.
Work with the local league to support their teams and coaches while developing a relationship where you offer a spot for the best kids from that league who want to move on to travel ball.
Offer affordable or free programs where recreational or local league coaches can have access to training to help them have the greatest impact possible on the kids they coach.
If we really want kids to play this game, we need to help the recreational leagues grow and thrive. If we don’t have a great place for kids to give softball a try they will try something else.
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.