What are the benefits of moving Fastpitch softball to the spring? It’s complicated, and driven by different motives for each of the impacted groups. To give a better look at the benefits for each group, we’ll answer this question in three parts.
It’s Better For The Players!
Many players who are playing school ball are also playing travel ball. What do the kids gain by moving the high school season to spring?
Less overlap of the high school and travel ball seasons. The height of the travel ball season is also the time that high school coaches need to prepare for the season. High school coaches would not need to use the summer as their primary training time because they would not be playing games a couple days after the kids return to school in the fall.
Less overuse injuries. The number of softball players having surgery to resolve overuse injuries is alarming to say the least. About 90% of the players on my last team at Kennesaw State had at least one surgery. A couple of players needed several. All from overuse!
So why all the overuse injuries? The typical summer for most kids is practicing daily with their high school team. Often the the high school practice also includes strength and conditioning. The weekends are filled with travel ball tournaments and showcases. For most players, softball is a seven day a week commitment. Oh and don’t forget that many players are also going to at least one lesson a week.
This leads into the fall season where the players are then practicing and playing usually at least 5 days a weeks with several weekends of Friday and Saturday tournaments. Travel balls kicks it back into gear with tryouts, where some players feel the need to attend many different tryouts to see where they fit in or to have the opportunity to make the highest level team they can. Once you make a travel team, you have to sneak in as many practices as possible to be prepared for the fall showcase season.
The high school season comes to a conclusion in October and the fall travel ball season is poised to crank it up. It’s not uncommon to some players to begin playing with their travel ball team immediately after the high school season ends. The fall travel ball season will keep rolling until around Thanksgiving and many players are playing another 4 or 5 weekends.
The holidays usually allow for at least a little break, but usually by February the teams are practicing and playing every weekend. Many travel ball teams are forced to practice on weekends when they are not playing. Because the number of days available is limited, practices are usually very long to allow coaches the time they need to cover everything.
So let’s review. Many kids are playing 30 plus high school games and practicing another 60ish days. A very serious travel ball player is probably playing well over 100 games and practicing another 20ish days. If you play 130ish games that means you are warming up about 130ish times! Then you add in about 40ish lessons and at least a couple college camps and before you know it players are spending time comparable to a major league baseball player. Dang!!
And then BOOM! It’s summer again.
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.