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Softball is Having Fewer Batters up

Allison Schwartz, Staff Writer

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Westport Softball used to be such a popular sport that there would be quarterfinals with eight teams competing to win the title of the best of the season.

Now, Westport Softball has to bring in towns like Weston, Wilton, Fairfield, Bridgeport and Trumbull to field a full league.

Westport’s sixth and seventh grade league was only was able to salvage 34 girls to play.
Why is this happening? There are three theories: lacrosse, premiere teams, and commitments to other travel sports.

Lacrosse’s popularity has climbed dramatically. Total lacrosse participation has increased from 253,931 players to 802,044 in just 15 years, according to US Lacrosse.

“I switched from softball to lacrosse because I wanted to play a sport that was more active. I also just wanted to try something new,” said seventh grader Maddie Hill, who stopped softball this past year.

Westport Softball members have also been cut back because of premiere sports teams.
Premiere teams are teams that take the girls from many towns, drawing players who seek more time on the field and a high level of competition and an increase in commitment.

“I wanted to expose myself to different and new levels of softball and I wanted to see how far I could go with softball,” said seventh grader Gabby Lantier after asked why she became part of a premiere team instead of staying with the Westport Wreckers.

The softball population downfall can also be caused by other middle school travel sports teams.
Teagan Church, a seventh grader, said she typically has nine and a half hours of soccer per week.

Meanwhile seventh grade Water Rat swimmer Jessica Qi says, “If I went to every practice, I would have 15 hours of practice a week. I have two morning practices before school. Then I have two hours of practice on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, an hour and 45 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday, plus three hours on Saturday.”

So children can’t try more than two sports without double-booking, and even that is pushing it. Consequently, fewer kids are trying the sport of softball.

“Studies are showing that younger athletes increasingly are getting burned out. They put all their energy into a single sport and compete in a very intense environment all year round,” says Keith Kaufman. He is an athletic expert who teaches at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Spending 15 hours a week in one sport might make the player less interested in putting in full effort after constantly playing. Not only do kids not have time to play more than a couple sports, but sometimes they become uninterested by the end of high school or sooner.

If travel hours were fewer, kids could try more sports and make the full commitment in high school, not middle or elementary school.

Is what’s happening to Westport Softball just a town issue, or a country-wide dilemma? Is it because of new sports like lacrosse, or the heavy time commitments of travel sports? With less time on the field than premiere teams, is Westport Softball giving their players an opportunity to try more sports, or is it a sign that Westport doesn’t take its softball program seriously?

“I switched from softball to lacrosse because I wanted to play a sport that was more active.””

— Maddie Hill

Whether the reason is one of these or another unknown culprit, Westport Softball is looking for players, plus there is a nationwide issue of what heavy commitments to other sports can sometimes create.

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Softball is Having Fewer Batters up