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Responses to Friday’s Article: “Softball Tournaments… “Are They Taking A Toll on Our Daughters?”

The Louisiana USSSA All-State tournament, where girls are nominated throughout the season based on sportsmanship, teamwork, dependability etc. and compete in a weekend event at the end of the season.

Perhaps you were out on Black Friday hitting the malls and getting a jump for holiday gifts and didn’t see our article titled: Inside Pitch: One Parent’s Take on Softball Tournaments… “Are They Taking A Toll on Our Daughters?”

A quick recap: it was submitted by a parent whose daughter is headed to a Power 5 Conference school, but is concerned about how club tournaments have gotten longer both in number of days in the event and number of games (sometimes five or six) that can be played in one day.

We invited readers to submit their thoughts and particularly wanted to get input from event directors.

As we expected, the parent-submitted article solicited strong opinions on each side of the issue and below you’ll read a cross-section of e-mails we received including:

  1. a parent who thinks there are too many games,
  2. the thoughts of a parent whose daughter is in college now and believes the structure helped her develop,
  3. insights from a USSSA Director who has a good perspective being an event producer and a mother of two daughters who played.

To submit your thoughts on the topic, email us at info@extrainningsoftball.com. Include your name, city/state and tie-in to club softball (player, parent, coach, event director, etc.).

*****

My daughter played her first season of travel ball in 2018 (12U).

I'm firmly in the camp that many tournaments require the athletes to play way too many games.  There is absolutely no developmental need to play more than two games in one day, regardless of the age group.

A $15 trophy isn't worth the health and well-being of the athletes. Time to change the tourney culture.

Blaine Alvarez-Backus
Lancaster, Massachusetts

*****

The parent sounds like a parent from Southern California because they did not mention the 14-hour drive home.

Pat Moore, now at DePaul and seen here pitching in October, 2016 for the NW Bullets, was the Big East Pitcher of the Year in 2018.

(Getting to see and compete in places like) Arizona, Colorado, Las Vegas, Huntington Beach, Washington, Sacramento, Reno, Texas and even Canada means spending quality time with your kids. Priceless!

Life is tough and these players are ahead of the game in life. My daughter planned out the trips to the tournaments even going online to purchase airline tickets and hotel reservations. So many life lessons learned over the years.

There are many people to thank for their growth as young adults and we would do it all over again!

Brett Moore (daughter Pat at DePaul was Big East Pitcher of the Year in 2018)
Medford, Oregon

*****

My name is Cindi Hall and I’m a director with USSSA fastpitch.   I read your article and would like to offer feedback on it.

I am the Louisiana State Director for Fastpitch and have been directing events for 12 years (with the past three in my current capacity).  I did not play but have two daughters who did, and this was a way for me to stay involved in a sport that I grew to love.

Swinging For A Cure, an event produced by the USSSA in Louisiana, provides Chemo Bags to local cancer facilities.

I agree 100 percent that the current structures on events can take a toll on players.  Having two daughters who are former players and have suffered from ACL and shoulder issues, I always keep the health of the girls in the forefront of my mind.

However, I think that the formats that have become the norm are a big part of the problem.

Baseball uses multiple pool games that seed into single elimination brackets.  They limit the number of games that a player can pitch in an event.

Softball often uses pool into double elimination bracket with no limits on pitching.  With double elimination, a team could possibly play 5-6 games on the final day if they prematurely drop into the loser’s bracket.

With this structure, events are backloaded with heavy games at the end.  The pool games at the beginning of the event can be scheduled so that teams aren’t at the field for extended periods.  But once bracket starts, the schedule is dependent on whether a team wins or loses and the flow of the games narrows field usage down where games have to be scheduled back-to-back.

Coaches and parents seek out the larger events, so limiting teams isn’t an option.

While it may be all about the money for a few directors, I know first-hand that it’s not always the case. As a director, I’ve run events that have put me in the hole because it was best for the teams, hoping to make up for it at a later time.  I think we get a bad rap sometimes on that part of it because what doesn’t get factored in is our expenses for the events and the amount of time spent on building programs that give these girls the opportunity to play.

One USSSA event, Angels for Autism, helps raise awareness of Autism, and provides opportunities for local kids to throw out the first pitch.

You are absolutely right on the toll it takes on these girls, but I don’t think it should be put solely on the backs of directors.  If coaches and parents would be willing to be part of a change, we could modify events to formats that put less stress on the players.

One thing I can say for certain is that my girls developed lifelong friendships through softball and I still see many of their former teammates (some of whom are coaches now).   When they talk about their softball days, it’s about the fun times and experiences they had--never about the games they won, the tournaments they lost, the bad calls that umpires made (all the things that seem to be all that matters these days).

With that, I try to change up the options and experiences for these girls.  We add a little fun to some, community service to some and then have the serious events (State, Regionals, Nationals).  It’s been accepted and I feel good about that.

I’ve included a few examples:

  • Angels for Autism - which is a national USSSA awareness effort.  We bring in local kids to throw the first pitch and have team building events Along with the games.
  • Swinging for a Cure - where teams donate items as part of their entry fee that we use to build Chemo Bags to distribute to local cancer facilities.  We do about 300 bags per event.
  • Hits for Heroes - where we collect perishable food items for homeless veteran facilities.
  • Cinco De Mayo - just fun with a photo booth, etc.
  • All-State - where girls are nominated throughout the season based on sportsmanship, teamwork, dependability etc.  We build teams comprised of girls across the state for a one weekend event at the end of the season.

Cindi Hall
Shreveport, Louisiana

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