Softball Newfoundland and Labrador (SNL) vice-president Ross Crocker feels strongly that young female softball players in Newfoundland and Labrador are being shortchanged and he’s pointing the finger directly at School Sport Newfoundland and Labrador (SSNL).
“Young females in this province are losing opportunities for possible U.S. scholarships because they are playing the slo-pitch game at the high school level instead of fastpitch,” said Crocker.
Crocker also believes playing slo-pitch in the under-14 and under-16 age-group results in “a missed opportunity” for girls.
Softball Newfoundland and Labrador provides fastpitch pitching clinics for females in various parts of the province, but can’t get the fastpitch game into the school system.
“School Sport Newfoundland and Labrador are more interested in participation numbers and I guess they feel they’ll get more involved if it’s slo-pitch because there aren’t that many fastpitch hurlers,” said Crocker.
“Girls fastpitch softball numbers are through the roof on the mainland. There are 20 or more teams at the U-14, U-16 and U-18 national championships..
Crocker believes young softball-playing girls are losing out by not getting the support and encouragement to play the game, especially fastpitch.
“They don’t realize what they are missing,” he said.
Crocker says athletes are basically being handcuffed by having to play slo-pitch in high school.
“If our girls want to be identified down the road, they have to start early with the fastpitch game,” he said. “All you have to do is throw the ball straight in as fast as you can. You don’t have to strike out 17 batters.
“I’m not saying you can’t have a slo-pitch division, but your best athletes should be playing fastpitch.”
Crocker is not alone in his criticism of how SSNL operates when it comes to its softball program.
“We shouldn’t be teaching high school athletes how to play slo-pitch,” said Softball Newfoundland and Labrador provincial minor director Sherry Mercer.
“By the time they reach high school, they should be used to playing against fastpitch pitchers.
“I think the reason (School Sports NL) is doing that is because it’s simply easier to put a slo-pitch team together. I’ve also been told they don’t play fastpitch because of insurance (reasons). In reality, there’s more of a chance you’re going to be hurt in slo-pitch.
“It’s also a numbers thing. They’d rather have 20 teams of slo-pitch than 10 teams of fast pitch.”
Mercer said if the game is to expand “outside of the Overpass,” it has to be done through the school system.
“Other provinces are growing the game because they are doing it through the school system,” she said.
“When we go to nationals in any sport, softball fastpitch represents us well in almost every division and yet we don’t have it in our high schools. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
“I’ve even suggested to School Sports that if you are going with slo-pitch, can you at least go with the provincial softball rules where the arc is reduced, (but) they won’t even think about it.
“If other provincial sports governing bodies hold their provincials, such as basketball, they’ll follow Basketball Newfoundland rules, but when it comes to softball they won’t follow Softball Newfoundland rules.”
Another problem with female softball is that there is no competition, said Mercer. Sometimes, she said, you have just enough players for one team.
“You can practice all day long, but it’s no good unless you play games,” she said.
Softball Newfoundland is making clinics available to teach the game and Mercer noted the provincial governing body ran off about 20 fastpitch clinics in various areas of the province, with senior elite ball players doing the instruction.
“Newfoundland has increased somewhat in terms of the female game,” said Mercer, “but we’re still struggling in some areas.
“They don’t have enough games to play and we don’t have enough volunteers to move the game forward. We need more coaches and,” she added, “ I’ll be honest with you, it’s hard to get umpires to do female games.”
In the meantime, the U12,U-14 and U16 teams participating in the annual Const. William Moss minor tournament which starts today, will all be playing the fastpitch game.
There are 33 teams, including nine female entries scheduled to take part in the Moss competition. The tournament schedule for today can be found in the Scoreboard section, page B5.