Girls Fastpitch Softball
Levels of Competitive Play

Girls fastpitch softball, like most sports, is played at various competitive levels. You will find fastpitch being played from the basic neighborhood recreation league up to a professional league, known as the National Pro Fastpitch. The primary focus of is to aid the coaches at the recreational, travel and, perhaps, high school level. This page will, however, seek to explain each of the competitive levels as an overview and in the case of the recreation league, travel team, and high school level, offer some suggestions around coaching psychology. The links in each paragraph will take you to a page that takes an indepth dive into each level of competition and what is expected.

In most cases, a girls first introduction to softball comes at the neighborhood instructional league level, also called the recreation or "rec" league. These leagues can start as young as 5 years old and extend up into the high school years. The primary focus, particularly in the younger years, is teaching the game of fastpitch softball, versus worrying about winning and losing.

Delivering the signs for the next pitch in the softball game

The next level, in terms of chronology, is generally the travel team level. These leagues generally start as young as eight years old in some states, and extend up to a 23 and over league. This is for serious and committed players, coaches and parents. Most games are played as weekend tournaments, although there are instances where league play is combined with tournaments. Travel ball is also ruled by various national organizations, with the most prevalent being the American Softball Association, or ASA. Most girls fastpitch softball teams, leagues, and organization generally adopt the rules and guidelines as prescribed by ASA. The teams are generally split up into two year increments: 8 & under, 10 & under, 12 & under, 14 & under, 16 & under, 18 & under, and 23 & under. This is serious softball and the level of play, particularly in the upper groupings (Gold and "A") is quite entertaining and competitive. From a skills point of view, travel teams are more skilled than their "school" level equivalents (junior high school and high school) because these teams field the best players from a wide area.

High School Softball is the next level of girls fastpitch softball, chronologically speaking. These teams are generally under the mandate of the state level sports organization. Generally in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for instance, the PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association)is the rulemaking body. Most state athletic organizations, however, adopt the ASA rules, with perhaps some minor tweaks.

If you think you are through with fastpitch softball at 18U, then you haven't heard about the Women’s Fastpitch Softball Association. This organization, started in 2010, is bringing girls fastpitch softball to the over 18 crowd. It is in the process of setting up leagues across the country, so take a read and see if there is a league in your area. If not, no problem. The WFSA is looking for people to help set up the WFSA in your area!

College Softball is the next level of competitive play, comprised mostly of current or former travel players, depending on which division the school competes in (Division 1, 2, or 3). The upper level divisions (1 and 2) do offer scholarships to their best players, while division 3 is prohibited from doing so.

Fastpitch pitcher windmilling towards home

Fastpitch softball, like baseball, was recently removed from the Olympic schedule, however, the national team does compete in other international tournaments. The USA Softball Team has generally been the absolute pinnacle of the sport of Fastpitch Softball. It is comprised of the best of the best from the college and professional ranks.

The professional league, known as National Pro Fastpitch originally called the Women’s Pro Softball League, was founded in 1997, after the success of the team, in the 1996 Summer Olympics, folded in 2001 and was revived in 2004. There are currently six teams competing in the NPF.

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