Competitive Girls Softball

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					                                Competitive Girls Softball
Beyond Recreation:
        Your daughter plays in a recreational softball league and decides she wants 'more'. This primer
describes the process and sets expectations for parents of girls interested in competitive travel softball.
        Generally recreational softball is offered only in the Spring. In Summer and Fall softball is only
available at a competitive level. In our area (northern California) Winter competitive tournaments are
available but the weather is a major factor and many players and teams chose to rest this season.
        Most recreational softball leagues in the area have competitive teams associated with them. Each
team is autonomous but draws their players initially from the affiliated recreational league. Some local
examples are:

     Almaden Valley Softball:                     Almaden Lightening
     Branham Hills Girls Softball:                BHGS All-Stars
     Campbell BobbySox:                           Campbell Crush
     Cupertino Girls Softball:                    Cupertino Inferno
     East Valley Softball:                        San Jose Twisters
     Los Gatos/Saratoga Softball:                 Los Gatos Magic
     Mountain View BobbySox:                      Mountain View Nova
     Palo Alto Girls Softball:                    PAGS All-Stars
     Santa Clara PAL                              PAL Gals
     South San Jose Softball:                     San Jose Quicksilver
     West Valley Softball:                        San Jose Slammers

        There are also “A” teams. The majority of these teams are not associated with a recreational
league. Some local examples are San Jose Sting, San Jose Sizzle, San Jose Strikkers, San Jose Fury, San
Jose Thunder.
        At the competitive level not everyone who tries out is selected for the team, and some who are
selected spend much of their time on “the bench”. On most teams, there are no guarantees of minimum
playing time. If your daughter is one of the top players in her recreational league, the next step is to find
out what teams are available at her age level and whether they are holding tryouts. If she is not a top
player she will need to practice or take lessons until she is competitive with other girls being considered.

         Lessons are available at several local businesses, prices range from $30 - $60 for a 30 minute
private lesson, groups lessons are a little less costly. Lessons can be for general skills (throw, catch, bat)
or in specialty positions like pitching or catching. Summer sports camps are also helpful for building
skills. Stanford, Santa Clara, Cal, and San Jose State all offer summer camps and clinics, with a weeklong
camp costing up to $325. Local options for lessons and clinics include:
      Mize Fastpitch in Campbell                                    (408)374-8842
      All-Star Sports Academy in Mountain View                      (650) 961-2255
      Hardtke Baseball in Campbell                                  (408)866-8050
      Christie Liu in Redwood City                                  (650)369-7111, x12

Competitive levels:
        Competitive teams can be A or B level. Generally, a girl will start at the “B” level and advance to
“A” with her team or at a later time when she's ready. Depending on the national affiliation (ASA, NSA,
Triple Crown, USSSA, etc.) of a tournament there are different criteria for A or B, but in general:
     "B" teams come from a single recreational league, are formed thru tryouts or All-star selections after
   5/1 (ASA only) and they may disband when their season ends. If a "B" team is successful (wins a lot)
   they may chose to stay together the following year. Some successful “B” teams may choose to move
   up to "A".
     "A" teams stay together year-to-year, only hold tryouts to backfill a girl who leaves (usually for a

                                Competitive Girls Softball
   specific position). Because their needs are so specific they generally have to go beyond any single
   recreational league to find the right players. In fact, an “A” team at the 14/16/18U level will usually
   have players from a wide geographic area and from a half a dozen High Schools. It is not uncommon
   for players to drive over an hour each way to practice with their “A” team. Players on an “A” team
   will frequently play 50-75 games in a year.

Age Brackets:
        The age brackets are set in 2 year increments based on the age of the girl on January 1st that year.
All “A” teams must either advance to a new age bracket or re-form with younger players every other year.
As a team is usually formed by a parent for the benefit of his/her daughter, the team's age bracket is
usually advanced based on the age of the coach's daughter. If possible, join a team where the coach's
daughter was born in the same year as yours. Otherwise you may find yourself having to move to a new
team after one season because your daughter is out of sync (she must move up a bracket and the team
doesn't need to, or the team moves up and your daughter isn't ready). Also, even if there are several
progressive levels within the same Travel organization, don't take for granted that the next age bracket up
has a spot waiting for your girl, as many girls may be competing for only a few specialized spots.
     10U is the baseline, entry level. Here pitching is from 37 feet, accurate but not really fast (35-45
   mph), with few finesse pitches (change-ups, curves, etc.). Most girls can hit so scores are high.
     12U has more teams competing as more girls join at this age. Pitching is from 40 feet, is faster (45-
   55 mph), and there is a little more finesse pitching (drops, rises). Dropped 3rd strike and past-balls are
   a major factor. Consistent batting is less common and tends to be into infield plays so scores are lower.
     14U has slightly fewer teams competing than in 12U. Girls at this age are generally 8th graders or
   High School Freshmen and high school rules prevent non-school tournaments during the school
   season. The pitching gets a little faster (50-60 mph), and finesse pitches are prevalent. Defense skills
   are high, predictive fielding (girls can tell where a batter will hit to and shift to cover) is common,
   errors are few. Batting skill catches up to the pitching so long hits become common.
     16U sees fewer teams. Players are a mix of Varsity and Junior Varsity players on their high school
   teams, and are limited to playing on travel teams only outside their school season. Games are pitching
   duels with very low scores.
     18U sees the fewest teams. Only the most serious athletes stay in the sport to this age division.
   Players are High School Varsity players and/or college hopefuls.

Girls usually enter competitive softball at the 10U or 12U age divisions, at age 9 - 13. While it's possible
to enter later, it's increasingly difficult to obtain the required skill level without tournament experience.
By the time a teenager is playing at "A" level there's a significant gap between her skill level and a rec-
only player of the same age. Each year she plays up to 75 more games at a more intense level, and
practices an extra 60-100 hours more than a recreation-only player. Top High School and College softball
programs recruit the “A” level player first.

How to get started:
        The place to find out about these teams and tryouts locally is the San Jose Mercury News
'Venture' section every Thursday in the back of the Sports section. Tryouts for Summer travel teams are
usually held between January and April (May for “B” teams). The vast majority of advertised tryouts are
for “A” teams. Tryouts for Fall travel teams are less common but are held in August/September. Call the
contact, ask around about the reputation of the coaches and team, and then attend the tryout. Some tryouts
are very structured, some are more of a 'practice with the team' style. Tryouts can be intimidating, but
they serve to show where your daughter fits in the general skill level for her age. Even if your daughter is
not selected the coach will usually provide constructive feedback on what skills she should work on.

The Team Experience:
Goals: Once a team is formed they will set goals regarding how many and what type tournaments to play,

                                 Competitive Girls Softball
how often to practice, etc. Whether the goal is to play a lot to gain experience or to win some local
tournaments in order to qualify for a regional or national tournament, everyone on the team needs to share
the same goals. If they don't the team is at risk.

Team Size: Team rosters vary between 10–15 girls. On a small team each girl will play more innings but
the team risks forfeiting or losing some games to absence or injury. Large teams rarely forfeit due to
absence and injury but more girls will be sitting on the bench. Some tournaments allow designated batters
and/or defense-only players. A viable tournament team has at least two quality pitchers and catchers,
other positions are more flexible.

Injuries: At the competitive level girls will be at higher risk for injury than at a recreational level. They're
playing harder, balls have more velocity (both hit and thrown), and base running is more aggressive. The
most common injuries are scrapes due to sliding and bruises due to collisions or being hit by a pitched,
hit, or thrown ball. Less common are sprains and strains. Broken bones and concussions are rare, but they
do happen. Safety and First aid are top priorities.

Uniforms: Uniforms will cost around $100-$200 per player. There is usually a different set for Saturday
than for Sunday. As she'll play in a wide range of temperatures there are several layers, a turtleneck under
the jersey and sweatshirt over it, plus shorts and sliding gear. Assume you already have cleats. Some
teams require matching jackets, gearbags, etc. Cost is borne by the parents. If your daughter is a catcher,
she will be expected to provide her own gear by the time she's in 12U. Catcher gear (helmet, shin guards,
chest pad, mitt) can easily run around $200, and has about a 2 year life depending on the number of
games played.

Tournament Format: Tournaments are usually 2 days, with a round-robin or pool play format on Saturday
and a single or double elimination format on Sunday. Your daughter should be in shape to play 3-5 games
on Saturday and another 3-5 on Sunday. Tournament fees are in the range of $300-$400 per team. There
is also an entrance fee for non-players (yes, parents pay to get in), around $3 per person.

Travel: Travel to tournaments depends on the goals of the team and location of tournaments meeting the
team's goals. Generally travel is within 1-2 hours from home unless there is a national tournament on the
list. This means a motel for Saturday night, sometimes for Friday if you draw an 8:00am Saturday game.
You will be expected to stay at the same motel as the team, both for logistics and for team bonding.
Usually, a team volunteer books a block of rooms at the motel and you must confirm in advance and pay
yourself. Expect to pay between $70 and $150 per night at most northern California locations. If your
team qualifies for and attends a national tournament these are longer, 5-7 days, and generally farther away
from home – Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Dallas are examples. Cost is borne by the parents,
though some teams do car washes or other fund raisers to offset the expense.

Pins: Pin trading is a tradition at most National Tournaments. Girls and siblings trade their team's pins for
others, meeting new players from around the USA and Canada in the process. Trading pins need to be
designed and ordered well in advance of the tournament. Pins cost $1-10 each and each girl will trade 25-
30 of them, plus keep a few as souvenirs for her family. The most popular pins are colorful, with dangles,
gems, or that fit with others to form a puzzle. Naturally these are more expensive than plain pins. Don't be
too cheap, because its no fun for the girls if no one wants their pin.

                                Competitive Girls Softball
       Competitive softball is expensive. For a Summer team playing in 6 weekend tournaments, you
can expect to spend over $1,500:

        Uniforms:                            $ 150
        Team Tournament Fees:                $ 175
        Parent entrance fees:                 $ 40
        Motels:                              $ 600
        Gas:                                 $ 200
        Meals:                               $ 300
        Shared expenses:                      $ 50
        (insurance, first aid supplies, scorebooks, etc.)

         If your team qualifies for and attends a national tournament you can easily add $1,000 to these
costs. Much of this expense will be paid up front to the travel team and reimbursed by the parents. Each
travel team is an independent small business, with expenses similar to any other service business.

Reset for the next season:
        At the end of each season a team will reassess its goals and its player make-up. Being on a team
one season does not guarantee you will be asked back the following season.

        Competitive softball is extremely rewarding and lots of fun. Girls stay fit and form lasting
friendships as they compete. However, it requires a large commitment and should not be entered lightly.
The time and financial requirements are high, and the travel schedule requires sacrifices by the entire
family. Your family will be committing to stay in motels and watch softball games all day nearly every
weekend of June and July, plus 5-10 hours of practices each week. Don't do it in anticipation of a college
scholarship. In the 15 years of Cupertino Girls Softball and Cupertino Inferno, only a handful of players
have received a Division 1 or II college scholarship for Softball.

        If your girl has talent and your family is able to make the sacrifice it can be a great experience.


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