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Dec. 1, 2006 - Womens corner
Expanding and ImprovingPat Lawlis
2006 has been a good year for women’s senior softball. We have seen more tournaments available, along with expanded age group competition.
In 2006, SSWC expanded on the concept of regional championship tournaments. In addition to the popular Eastern and Western Nationals, the Winter Nationals and Winter Worlds, and the California State Championships, we now have Spring Nationals along with Midwest, Northwest, and Southwest Championships. In 2007, we will add Spring Worlds, Southern Championships, and Northern Championships.
Along with the expanded championship tournament opportunities has come the new Tournament of Champions competition. The first Tournament of Champions will occur February 23-25, 2007 in Polk County, Florida. Participants are limited to the winners of the 2006 SSWC championship tournaments. The Tournament of Champions will become a yearly tournament that honors those teams that have won SSWC championship tournaments from the previous year. So the expanded number of championship tournaments means more opportunities for teams to qualify for future Tournaments of Champions.
In addition to new tournaments, we also have better playing opportunities for women of all ages. Now that true ages are a reality for players in all SSWC women’s age groups, we have more playing opportunities for many players. No longer will a 50+ player have to sit the bench while an underage player is on the field in her place. For those who still want to use players in their late 40s, we now have a 45+ division to accommodate them.
It will take time for the 45+ division to grow, just as it has with the 40+ division. When SSWC started the 40+ division at senior tournaments just 4 years ago, there were not many 40+ teams, so the 40s often had to play against 50+ teams. Today, we have so many 40+ teams at many tournaments that they sometimes must play at a different complex from the other women’s divisions. With the addition of the 45+ age group, within just a few years the women’s masters divisions (those younger than 50+) will soon need a 4-field complex of their own in tournaments.
It is important that we now have the same fair opportunities available for women of all ages. With these opportunities comes expansion, and not just for the younger women.
As we all are getting older, we are seeing more and more teams moving up to older divisions. This means expanded opportunities for better competition within the 60+ and 65+ age groups. It also means that we now have eight 70+ teams spread around the U.S. and Canada, so these ladies can now look for more tournament opportunities for playing within their own age group.
In 2006, we struggled with finding the best formats for women’s play in SSWC tournaments. We tried extending a couple of the larger tournaments to 3 days for some of the women’s age groups to make it possible for all age groups to play double elimination. Although we avoided some of the less desirable formats (round robin only or single elimination), using the 3 days did not turn out as well as we had hoped because it limited the number of teams that could participate.
In a couple of the later tournaments in 2006 we tried a new approach. We used a form of double elimination that included a 3 game guarantee for all teams. This seems strange at first, and it has its undesirable as well as its desirable points. On the negative side, it is used with only 2 pool games. This means that seeding is done based on very little competition among the teams.
On the positive side, it means that teams play more games in bracket competition, and no team is eliminated after just 2 games. While it adds at least one game to the brackets, it eliminates one round of pool play games. The net result is that with 2 pool games followed by a 3 game guarantee bracket, double elimination can be accomplished using fewer games than with 3 pool games followed by a straight double elimination bracket. This means we could have double elimination play in more 2 day tournaments.
The jury is still out on this concept of double elimination with a 3 game guarantee. So far we have gotten mostly positive feedback on it, but as always, we want to hear your views.
We continue to strive for good playing opportunities for all. Fair age groups, better competition, and expanded tournament opportunities are important accomplishments. With continued support and feedback from all of you, we can continue to move forward through 2007 and beyond.
Please keep your feedback coming to SSWCwomen@aol.com or 480-460-2996.