The value of co-ed slowpitch
What role should mixed (co-ed) slowpitch softball play in the overall plan for the future of softball and baseball in the UK?
This was one of the questions posed recently during consultations by BaseballSoftballUK to inform its funding submission to Sport England for 2017-21.
My answer is that mixed slowpitch softball, for adults or children and young people, should be at the core of any activity designed to grow, development and improve the sport overall. Here are my reasons:
1. At its basic level, slowpitch is the easiest form of the sport to learn and master. This is true because a slow pitch is easier for a batter to hit than a fast pitch, which makes the process of batting less intimidating. In addition, slowpitch pitching requires less precision and technique at a basic level, which makes it easier to master and therefore attracts more people to learn to pitch. Finally, because it is a hitter’s version of the game, the ball is put in play more frequently in slowpitch softball and this keeps all players more active.
2. Slowpitch can be played on an elite level in international competition. As players develop their skills, different levels of competition are available, including elite play both within the UK (the National Softball League) and internationally on a European and World level. This provides the opportunity for players to continue to improve and challenge themselves.
3. Slowpitch provides both an entry point and an exit point for people wanting to participate in the sport. Because it is relatively easy to learn, adults (or children) looking for a new sporting activity can pick up slowpitch softball at any age and then develop their skills. Likewise, as players want to ease up from other forms of the sport (fastpitch softball or baseball), they can move into slowpitch and enjoy this form of the game throughout their adult life.
4. Participants can move into other forms of the sport: single-sex slowpitch softball, fastpitch softball or baseball. Through playing slowpitch, participants can learn and master many of the basic rules and skills necessary for all versions of the sport. They can then try out the other versions, which tend to be more challenging, and can move to another version if they choose. Many players in the UK play multiple versions at the same time or have moved from one version to another.
5. Slowpitch is one of the few team sports where men and women (or boys and girls) play on an equal footing. There are only a handful of rules in slowpitch softball that are designed to level the playing field for male and female players; otherwise, they play on an even footing. Most sports (whether individual or team) are generally played by one sex or the other. Mixed slowpitch softball has an equal number of men and women playing at the same time. On the one hand, this has the positive effect of supporting gender equality. On the other hand, at a basic level, it makes slowpitch softball a more social sport and a great way to enjoy an athletic activity in a group.
Steve is spot on here. Just to add to point five, co-ed (or mixed) Slowpitch is the best mixed team sport I’ve ever seen or played. Everyone can feel involved, regardless of gender. That is a special thing and one of the strongest aspects of this wonderful sport.