For more than 40 years, Little League Softball® has provided girls around the world an opportunity to grow as young athletes and young adults. Right now, teams are competing, trying to earn a ticket to one of the four Little League Softball® World Series tournaments that will be held this summer.
And the growth of the Little League Softball program overseas has been expanding those opportunities for young female athletes and providing support for softball volunteers in more countries than ever.
Few places are these signs of progress as evident as in China, where the team from Guangzhou recently qualified for the Big League Softball World Series, held in Lower Sussex, Del. The young ladies from Guangzhou became the first team from China in any division to qualify for a Softball World Series after winning their Region Tournament held in Singapore.
“What’s impressive about China is that it’s all happened organically,” said Dan Velte, Senior Director of League Development and Regional Operations for Little League. “Where the growth of youth baseball and softball in some countries is spurred by outside influences, the growth in China has been homegrown.”
China is not the only country that is making a mark on youth softball.
“The Philippines have developed a strong softball program,” said Mr. Velte. “Italy is another successful area, as well as Puerto Rico and Mexico.”
The Europe and Africa Region has also seen noticeable growth of the game. This month, Mark Cooke, Winthrop University Softball Head Coach, will hold softball training clinics for both players and coaches in Moergestel, Netherlands and Kutno, Poland, in conjunction with the European Softball Federation. Mr. Cooke held similar clinics in Poland and Puerto Rico last year.
“As Little League continues to establish relationships with softball leaders around the world, the importance of providing instructional support for volunteers and players is vital to the development of the game throughout the world,” said Sara Thompson, Little League Director of Softball Development. “We’re excited to continue working with Coach Cooke to bring in-person education to our softball programs around the world.”
Mr. Velte added that existing programs in areas like Africa and Australia are becoming emerging markets for Little League Softball. It is in these areas, in addition to others across the globe, that Mr. Velte and the rest of Little League International are aggressively pursuing growing the game.
“Little League has great benefits for these children, and we want to use them to increase the scope of the game,” said Mr. Velte.