Softball Players, Coaches from Little League Urban Initiative Leagues Benefit from Clinics
The Little League Urban Initiative, in collaboration with Subway, the official restaurant of Little League Baseball and Softball, recently provided a free softball players’ clinic in Newark, N.J., and a softball coaches clinic on the North side of Chicago.
Nearly 50 Little Leaguers from throughout New Jersey participated in the softball clinic at Ironbound Little League, while several adult volunteers in Chicago, participated in the softball coaches clinic hosted by Horner Northwest Little League.
“Across the country, the level of opportunity and participation in Little League Softball within Urban Initiative leagues is not where it should be,” Demiko Ervin, Director of the Little League Urban Initiative, said. “We have a lot of young ladies in urban communities who could really benefit from playing Little League Softball. “
The players, ages 8-13, worked with clinicians on the fundamentals of hitting, bunting, base running, and sliding. The five-hour clinic also presented drills to improve throwing, catching and fielding, along with the basics of pitching and catching.
“It was a great atmosphere and the girls had a tremendous time,” Cleveland Thompson of West End Little League from Trenton, N.J., who brought several players to the clinic, said. “This clinic proved that Little League can exist in urban areas, you just need strong parental support.”
Despite the cool temperatures, the players worked through a variety of drills designed to improve skill level and provide a broader understanding of the game.
“We decided to go with a generalized outline,” Leslie Valenti, clinician and owner of the All-Starz Training Facility, said. “I talked to the five other instructors, and we chose to keep it fundamental because we didn’t know the skill level of the kids that were coming in.
“Once we started working with them, we found out that the basics were what they really did need,” Mrs. Valenti, a softball clinician for 16 years, said. “We’ve do a lot of education in the Lodi and Hasbrooke Heights Little Leagues, as well as in Newark. Each league is interested in improving the training overall.”
Cindy Bristow from Softball Excellence was the featured clinician at the coaches clinic held at Bateman Elementary School. This day-long, hands-on seminar was free to all Little League Urban Initiative softball coaches.
Featuring discussions on pitching and throwing, hitting development, fielding drills, set-up and organization of practices and other key drills, volunteer coaches had the opportunity to see the benefits of the varied training techniques and ask questions of the instructors.
“One of the biggest challenges that coaches have is they don’t know where to start,” Eileen Berganos, Vice President of Horner Park Northwest Little League, said. “In Chicago, we have a lot of girls interested in playing softball, but not a lot of coaches because they don’t understand the mechanics of softball. This clinic was opportunity to get acquainted with the sport.
“In softball, there are different ways of thinking,” Mrs. Berganos, a Little League volunteer for the past five years, said. “Watching the coaches at the clinic, I could tell it was a great experience. The coaches learned how to engage players in a more active way, and teach so the girls would get a good foundation and have a good time.”
“By offering player and coach clinics in these areas, our goal is to continue growing softball in the inner city, prepare local league volunteers to manage and coach softball, and help teach the basic fundamentals of the game to the players,” Mr. Ervin said. “We want to encourage all Urban Initiative leagues to offer softball, and hopefully we can continue to support their efforts to do so by providing these types of clinics in various cities.”
The Little League Urban Initiative is now operating with more than 200 leagues in nearly 85 cities in the United States. The Urban Initiative also has participated in nearly 30 field renovation/development projects, including its most recent project in Richmond, Va.
For more information on Little League’s Urban Initiative, contact Mr. Ervin at: dervin@LittleLeague.org; or 570-326-1921. More information on the Little League Urban Initiative is also available on the Little League web site at: www.LittleLeague.org; or on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/LittleLeagueUrbanInitiative.
The Little League Urban Initiative continues to provide the opportunity for Little Leagues in metropolitan areas to expand their programs and educate its players and volunteers through a series of clinics and state-wide jamborees.