Little League Growth Spurred by Growing Communities, Broadening Programs, and Active Volunteers
Based on applications submitted to Little League International, which indicate the projected number of teams each league expects to field for the upcoming regular season, South Orangetown Little League of Blauvelt, N.Y., predicted the most growth.
Richard Volpe, South Orangetown president, credits the league’s structure and responsible leadership for a 33-team increase (from 64 to 97 teams). The review indicated that South Orangetown shares several traits with other growing leagues in different sections of the United States.
“Our league has built a program that is inclusive,” Mr. Volpe said. “There is less pressure on the players than in other leagues, because we don’t rate players, we simply draft them.”
South Orangetown also offers softball, and has made a conscious effort to go into the neighborhood schools to promote the program. These elements, as well as motivated volunteers, advertising, and education have shown to be common priorities among leagues reporting improved enrollment numbers.
In growing communities, leagues which have a willingness to promote the local program through the use of flyers, mailings, newspaper advertisements, parent education clinics, etc., have helped bring young families into the Little League program.
“Our league has been growing for the last three years,” said Tony Cervantes, president of Southside Little League in Fort Worth, Texas. “When we started seeing building going on we got in there and built three fields for a Minors coach-pitch division, and soon we’ll have a Tee Ball field finished.”
Southside Little League connected with the families in its area by sending out 40,000 flyers to several elementary schools within its boundaries. Southside expects to add 30 teams for the 2005 season (from 38 to 68).
“We have grown so much in the Tee Ball and Minor Divisions that we’ve had to create different sub-divisions,” Mr. Cervantes said.
Advertising to entice new players and league volunteers, while reminding returning players of the benefits of playing Little League, proves productive for all of these leagues, regardless of size.
Expanding the local program also allows leagues to broaden and better accommodate the children in their respective communities, which in turn creates a more enjoyable experience for the players.
Whether chartering a softball program, Challenger Division, or teenage divisions, each league that has increased enrollment has done so, not only in these new divisions, but in the existing ones.
Leagues experiencing growth attribute their success to the effort of the volunteers. Commitment to the league generates the motivation to participate, and promote, the willingness to educate, and the vision to be creative.
Thus far, probably because of seasonal factors, leagues with the best growth are in Western and Southwestern states. California had the greatest increase, with six leagues making the top 25. Texas was second, followed by Florida, Virginia, and Michigan. Other states showing growth are: New York, Tennessee, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Washington, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nevada. In total, 14 states had a league(s) charter at least 10 more teams for this season, than in 2004.