The National Fastpitch Coaches Association has joined with several other softball associations to form Softball America, an umbrella organization developed for the purpose of uniting U.S. softball groups for the betterment of the sport.
The non-profit structure is comparable to that of USOC-designated national governing bodies USA Baseball and USA Basketball. Softball America's primary purpose is to foster national and international amateur sports competition in softball.
"Many of the softball organizations have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of input we have in the matters of softball in this country," said Lacy Lee Baker, NFCA executive director. "By becoming a member of Softball America, we can work with other organizations to try to take a greater role in the administration of the sport."
On September 27, 2001, Softball America officially challenged the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) to become national governing body of the sport of softball. Legal papers, including the association's bylaws, board of directors and challenge issues against the ASA, were sent to the United States Olympic Committee, the ASA and the International Softball Federation.
"The governing body should be made up of all viable softball organizations, and they should have a say in the governing body," said Obie Evans, executive director of Dixie Softball, a girls' youth softball organization based in Birmingham, Alabama, and one of the charter members of Softball America."Our brother program USA Baseball allows this on the baseball side and it works well. Why should softball be any different?" Evans said.
Evans' remarks are based on what the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act outlines for national governing bodies (NGBs). According to the act, one of the ASA's NGB charges is to "develop interest and participation throughout the United States and be responsible to the persons and amateur sports organizations it represents."
In the ASA structure, however, organizations have little opportunity to strongly impact decisions.
There are no allied members on the board, while the opposite is true in USA Baseball -- their board is made up primarily of amateur baseball organizations.
There are very few women on the board, which also is a violation of the Ted Stevens Sports Act, which requires "reasonable representation of both males and females" if the NGB governs a girls' and women's sport. At last count, there were five women on the ASA board out of a total of 33 (15 percent). One is a regional vice president and the other four are athlete representatives, which is the percentage (20%) of athlete representatives mandated by the USOC.
Through the ASA structure, organizations such as Dixie and NFCA can join the ASA as allied or affiliated members. According to the ASA Code, any organization that was admitted as an allied member prior to December 31, 1993, shall be entitled to one vote on the ASA Council, so long as it remains continuously a member of ASA. The code further states that the affiliated members as a group can have one representative. Currently there are about 300 members on the ASA Council, so the NFCA, which joined the ASA in 1988 as an allied member, has one of about 300 votes.
"Currently, I'm the co-chair of the ASA's own Allied/Affiliated Members Committee, and many of the national associations who have joined the ASA have serious concerns regarding the ASA's willingness to listen and work with the other organizations. In fact, there are many softball organizations who have even refused to join the ASA because of this perceived lack of respect. In addition, if they joined now, they wouldn't even get a vote of their own on the ASA Council.
"With Softball America, we are trying to give all softball organizations, including the ASA, an opportunity to join together to grow the sport and represent it in the manner it deserves," Baker continued.
Two men's fastpitch organizations are charter members of Softball America -- International Softball Congress (ISC) and North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA). They see the need for Softball America in a much more urgent light since boys' and men's fastpitch numbers have steadily decreased in the last few decades.
"During the two years I spent on the men's national team selection committee, I was given assurances by several ASA people of a new approach to developing players and enhancing male fastpitch," said Ken Hackmeister, ISC executive director. "None of those promises have come to fruition. A very detailed developmental business plan even was submitted to the ASA and completely ignored, and the selection committee still has members who are not associated with the game. The ASA has not fulfilled its commitment that was made to us nor have we seen any efforts to help our game grow and develop new players."
NAFA Executive Director Pat Bucknell also has concerns. "I think the ASA has turned its back on the men's fastpitch game completely, 100 percent. If it's not slowpitch or girls' and women's fastpitch, it doesn't exist. It's a sad situation and if something isn't done to turn it around, there probably won't be a men’s fastpitch program by 2005," Bucknell said.
The American Fastpitch Association (AFA) also is a member of Softball America, and several others are considering membership. Softball America allows for five classes of members -- (A) national associations, (B) local, regional or other organizations, (C) coaches, (D) amateur athletes, trainers, managers, umpires or administrators active in softball, and (E) any individual or organization which supports in word and action, the policies, goals and programs of Softball America, but is not otherwise eligible as a Class A, Class B, Class C or Class D member.
If you believe in this effort, you are encouraged to join. An application form will appear on the web in the the coming month, or you can receive one by contacting the NFCA at 573/875-3033 or by email.
Purposes of Softball America
The primary purpose of Softball America is to foster national and international amateur sports competition in softball. Additionally, Softball America is a non-profit corporation organized for educational and charitable purposes in order to encourage and develop softball participation in the highest traditions of competition. Pursuant to such purposes which meet the responsibilities of USOC-designated national governing bodies, this ssociation shall:
(1) Develop interest and participation throughout the United States and be responsible to the persons and amateur sports organizations, and to other softball organizations, active in the sport of softball.
(2) Assist member organizations and persons concerned with softball in the development of amateur athletic programs in the sport, and in the conducting and promoting of annual local to national amateur softball championships.
(3) To provide a channel of direct communication among softball organizations to minimize conflicts in the scheduling of all practices and competitions in the sport of softball.
(4) Keep athletes active in the sport of softball informed of policy matters and reasonably reflect the views of such athletes in the policy decisions of the Association.
(5) Provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by men and women in the sport of softball, providing an equal opportunity to amateur athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, administrators and officials to participate in amateur softball competition, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, physical handicap, sexual orientation or national origin, and with fair notice and opportunity for a hearing to any such individual before declaring such individual ineligible to participate.
(6) Seek to advance softball to allow the U.S. to field the most competitive teams possible in international competitions.
(7) Encourage and support amateur athletic softball programs for individuals with disabilities and the participation of such individuals in amateur softball activity, including, where feasible, the expansion of opportunities for meaningful participation by individuals with disabilities in programs of softball competition for able-bodied individuals.
(8) Provide and coordinate technical information on physical training, equipment design, coaching and performance analysis in the sport of softball.
(9) Encourage and support research, development and dissemination of information in the areas of sports medicine and sports safety in the sport of softball.
(10) Provide leadership and training for softball coaches, instilling within them a deep sense of responsibility for developing and conducting programs that will enrich the lives of the participants.
(11) Be committed to equal opportunity and fair treatment providing for equal opportunity to all applicants for employment and to employees without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, physical handicap, sexual orientation or marital status, and shall actively involve qualified minorities and women, and similarly encourage its constituents toward such involvement, to occupy positions at all levels of this Association including the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, standing committees and the administrative staff.