Participation in Little League Reaches 3-Year High
“We’re obviously very pleased with the participation numbers we
have seen this year, and we are pleased that so many more children
and families are receiving the benefits of participation in Little
League” Mr. Keener said. “This underscores Little League’s position
as the largest and most respected organized youth sports program in
Last year, a total of 2,634,900 children played in the various divisions of Little League Baseball and Softball. That total for 2006 is above 2,664,000, topping the 2004 figures as well.
“It’s not possible to pinpoint one or two reasons for the upsurge in participation", Mr. Keener said. "Instead, it is probably a combination of factors.”
Those factors, Mr. Keener said, include the following:
Through various means, Little League International has been able to directly reach more volunteers and parents than ever. Initiatives have included electronic newsletters that reach more than 400,000 people each month, on-line question-and-answer sessions with volunteers worldwide, and expanded use of the Little League Internet web site.
Outreach programs in which Little League International personnel make visits to conduct clinics and seminars have also proved popular. By the end of 2007, these “Little League Road Show” clinics will have been conducted in every U.S. state, plus Canada and Poland, with thousands of volunteers attending.
A new League Development Department was created in 2005 with two full-time staffers to handle inquiries regarding chartering new leagues. Little League also has worked more closely with international organizations, the Congress of European Baseball in particular, to bring more leagues under the Little League umbrella. More than 290 new Little League programs have been chartered this year – 135 of them outside the U.S.
The Little League Urban Initiative also has resulted in more players. The program that brings the benefits of Little League to urban areas, where interest in baseball has waned in the last two decades, now boasts more than 2,700 teams in more than 170 leagues in the U.S. Recently, significant support has come from Major League Baseball, the Torii Hunter Project, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, American Honda, and Bank of America.
As a result of extensive research, Little League International has offered more options to its local leagues, allowing for more flexibility at the local level (i.e., continuous batting order, more opportunities for games outside of the traditional regular season and tournament play, etc.). Little League International, as a result of information gleaned from research, has enhanced its focus on education of managers coaches as the primary factor in whether or not a child is pleased with his/her Little League experience.
Expanded awareness of Little League has resulted from events such as the Little League International Opening Day, and President George W. Bush’s Tee Ball on the South Lawn program. The first International Opening Day was held in New York City this past spring, and the 14th Tee Ball on the South Lawn game since President Bush took office in 2001 was held last month. President Bush launched the program in 2001 as a way to boost interest in baseball among young families.
Little League’s new league age determination date may also have some effect on this year’s participation numbers. With the average age of every Little Leaguer now three months older, the change may have resulted in more children remaining in the program longer.
While the baseball ranks in Little League have swelled by nearly 18,000, softball is not far behind. Little League added more than 11,000 girls softball players in 2006.