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Making Quality Opportunities for Women
March 1, 2004 – Pat LawlisIt is a new year, and teams are preparing for tournaments in which they expect to participate in 2004. As we write this column, the Senior Softball Women's Advisory Council (SSWAC) has just met at the Senior Softball Summit. The SSWAC grappled with a number of important issues for women, perhaps none so important as how to increase the quality opportunities available for senior women to play softball.
The SSWAC, made up of representatives from all major organizations supporting senior women's softball, is still a relatively new organization. Since its inception last year, it has taken steps to align the women's age divisions among all organizations to "true" age divisions. Once this goal is accomplished, the frustration of many teams, where some players can play in one organization's tournaments but not another's, will be eliminated. This is just a first step in improving quality opportunities for senior women.
This year, the SSWAC has initiated steps to deconflict scheduling for women's tournaments. While it is usually no big deal for qualifying tournaments to occur in both the East and the West on the same weekend, it is another thing if tournaments in the same region conflict or if national or world tournaments occur on the same weekend. Up to now, each organization has pretty much scheduled their own tournaments and then looked to see what other organizations have done with their schedules. Everyone has a pretty good idea of when past tournaments have been run by other organizations, and they plan around that, but circumstances don't always allow this year's tournaments to be run on the same weekends as last year's tournaments.
We have now made a couple of schedule changes to work out some of the conflicts. Of course, we don't always have the leeway to make changes once a tournament has been scheduled, and the later we get into the year the more difficult it is to change dates. But we have done the best we can for 2004, and now we have a plan in place for next year for avoiding scheduling conflicts before they are published.
There are other things involved in making quality tournaments for women as well. Our plans for this year for the Senior Softball World Championships (SSWC) tournaments include the following:
1.We are in the second year of transitioning the 50+ division to true ages. This year, 50+ teams may have up to 5 players who are between the ages of 47 and 49. Next year the younger players can only be 48 and 49, the following year 49, and by 2007 we will have a true 50+ division.
2.Although the men have gone to a .44 COR ball to try to keep down the "hot" hits, this has not been an issue for women. In fact, we believe that using the "deader" ball takes away from the women's game, so we are staying with .47 COR balls for the women.
3.There has been much said, but very little settled, about the bat controversy. The only thing that is clear right now is that it will be awhile before there is any agreement on what makes a bat unsafe. Meanwhile, we don't see this as a big issue for the women, and we are happy to stick with the same rule the SSWC used last year ˆ all bats labeled BPF 1.20 are approved.
4.We are soliciting feedback from all women's teams about which of our tournaments they are planning to attend. This will help us to decide if we should cancel the women's divisions where not much participation is expected. Conversely, it will also help us to have the confidence that some tournaments will be well attended, and we can pass that information along to teams. This will hopefully eliminate the situation where teams are waiting for each other to commit to going to a tournament before sending in their registrations, leading to a poorly attended tournament because some teams waited too long. We would also like to use this information to target a few tournaments for the 60+ and above age groups where we are expecting good competition for them.
5.Our web page is sporting more timely information, and we are now able to keep parts of it current ourselves, including the schedule.
We are dedicated to making as many quality opportunities for senior women to play softball as possible, and we encourage your inputs.