Recently we played in a charity softball tournament hosted by our local league. It was a non-sanctioned tournament which meant it was open to all levels of play. Several teams attended including some neighboring league non-tournament) teams. It’s very easy to spot a league team versus a tournament team.
We laid off as much as possible. Pitched our third pitcher the entire game. Played girls out of position and even allowed one team to have six outs per inning so they could bat more. Don’t take this the wrong way. We weren’t showing off, we were just trying to make more of a game of it and allow the other team to have more success. After all, it was just a charity tournament and there weren’t any trophies to be awarded. I remember the days when we were first beginning tournament softball and how painful it could be.
Get to the Point
I try to encourage all league teams to go play tournaments. Yes, when you first start out your girls are going to lose and lose pretty badly most of the time. However, the benefits of playing in tournaments are ASTOUNDING. The learning process that will occur in your players AND your coaches is enormous. The entire team gets to see what GOOD fastpitch softball looks like and what they should be striving towards. It will make all of your players take their game to the next level.
Plus, there is the added benefit of just playing more games and gaining more experience. A typical league season is about 15 games. Imagine going to a few tournaments and getting to play 4 or 5 games in each tournament. It doesn’t take many tournaments to increase your teams experience by 50% to 100%.
I Digressed again from the Main Point
So at this tournament I encouraged the coaches from those two league teams to take their teams to more “B” tournaments and stay after it. I was SHOCKED and DISGUSTED at their responses. Both coaches told me that their League would only allow teams to play in “C”, “A”, or “Open” tournaments, but would NOT ALLOW them to play in “B” level tournaments. That is about the DUMBEST thing I’ve ever heard.
Let Me Explain
There are generally three classes of Fastpitch Softball Tournaments. Class “A” is for really good teams. Generally “A” teams conduct tryouts every six months looking to upgrade positions and think nothing of cutting players based on performance level. “B” teams are generally very good league teams that are looking for a higher level of play that their league cannot provide. Some “B” teams will hold tryouts to fill open positions but generally do not cut players unless there is a real issue with the player or parent. “C” teams are league teams. “Open” tournaments are generally for “A” teams and those “B” teams that are on the cusp of getting pretty good.
Here is the Challenge
There are VERY FEW class “C” tournaments. Since they are for League teams, not many of these teams even know about tournaments so they don’t sign up for them and consequently the tournaments don’t “make”. Just not enough of these teams sign up to play, so therefore tournament directors don’t even try to host “C” level tournaments.
So if your league level team wants to start playing tournaments they generally have to go play in class “B”. Aaaahhhh, there is the rub. If your league prohibits you from playing in “B” class, you are stuck going to an “A” or “Open” tournament. Are you kidding me? Who would send a league team to an “A” tournament? Trust me, there is NO FUN to be had watching league team get DESTROYED by an “A” team. You will have a hard time EVER getting your players to go to a second tournament.
The League’s Perspective
Your League will use the excuse of not wanting “Tournament” teams in their league beating up on recreational teams. I will agree there is a small amount of validity to this point, but it really is almost a moot point. A solid “B” level team or any “A” team has no desire to play league ball. Playing down to that level will only hurt good tournament teams and it becomes a waste of time for those teams.
Your league will say they are a recreational league and they want softball to be fun for all players irrespective of their ability. I AGREE 100%. However, the goals of a league should be to promote softball for ALL girls and to encourage ALL girls to strive for a higher level of play. If teams want to step out and play in a few tournaments for the experience, they should be allowed and encouraged to do so.
I can understand a League not wanting to have powerhouse tournament teams beating up on recreational teams. The League rule should be that you can NOT play in “A” tournaments but that you can play in “B” or “C” tournaments. I totally understand that there is NO POINT in having an “A” team in league play. However, Leagues should take a stance of encouraging teams to improve and allowing them the opportunity to do so by playing “B” level. For the Leagues that do not allow play in “B” tournaments, they are stifling the opportunity for their teams to get better and squashing the opportunity for some of their players to really grow and develop.
Now, Go Get ‘em Coach!