This year will be the last we will see Women’s Fast Pitch Softball at the Summer Olympics. As of right now, we are not sure that it will be returned in the future.
What does this say to the young girls playing the sport today?
My daughter has played fast pitch softball since the age of 8. She actually started playing baseball, with the boys, in kindergarten at the age of 5, but because she turned out to be better than them, she was teased about it in school. She decided that she’d rather play with the girls than play with the boys who couldn’t accept that a girl could be better than they were.
Since the first time she took the field she wanted to be a pitcher. She started taking lessons and would practice – every day. Learning the fast pitch mechanics is not something that can be learned in a couple of weeks. It’s not even something that can be perfected within a couple of months. It is a skill that takes years to perfect in order to be consistent.
It took her 3 years to get to the place where she could consistently throw strikes. That year she took her Bobby Sox team to the League Championships and had the time of her life doing it. People at the park, parents and kids alike would stop to watch her practice. She would throw 100 – 150 pitches a day, 2 or three times a week, and that was outside of practice and games.
By the end of that season she knew that she wanted to take her game to the next level, which is Club Softball. As the new season approached, we posted her information to the ASA board in our area and were able to secure her 7 tryouts with teams in her age group.
Club Softball is a whole other world compared to a Park and Rec. League, Bobby Sox or Little League. Most of the teams were started by dads who felt that their daughter should be the starting pitcher and wasn’t being given the chance to show her stuff on another dads team. Every coach that I spoke with, his daughter was the starting pitcher. The assistant coach’s daughter was either the second string pitcher or played another infield position.
Another shock to the system was the parents. Instead of being supportive and friendly, most were suspicious and rude. Their concern was that this new kid could take their kids position on the team. I was disappointed in the comments and conversations I heard as my daughter tried out for teams.
After a few try outs, she was done. She picked a team that had just been formed, so there were no “core” or “original” members, and each girl would need to try out for the position she wanted. Of course the coach’s daughter was their starting pitcher, but once the coach saw my daughter pitch, he knew his daughter would take the second string position, and believe it or not, she was ok with that.
At the first parent meeting, the coach explained his philosophy for the team. His goal for the girls was to make them the best players they could be, in more than just one position and he would teach them not only how to play the game, but the philosophy behind it. He also wanted each of us to know that he considered this a College Prep team and that every member of his team should want to play softball in college.
His speech echoed my daughters’ dreams of playing college ball. Because she attends a small school, they do not have a formidable athletic program and she knew that if she was going to play college ball, she would have to play at the club level.
She has done incredibly well with her club team. The coach has taught her everything he’s promised and she has just blown us all away with her growing abilities. She’s been ranked as the 3rd best pitcher in her age group, all her hard work paying off.
But after college, then what? Without the Olympics to look forward to, will she be able to continue to play? Women’s Pro Fast Pitch Softball is growing, and maybe it will become as big as Women’s Professional Basketball – but even that has a long ways to go to equal the men’s leagues.
We must continue to support Women’s Pro Sport Programs for all those little girls out there playing the games that they love – just as much as the boys.