For the past 50 years, the Little League Softball® program has provided girls an opportunity to make lifelong memories through fun and competition at both the local community level and on the biggest stage as part of the World Series. This year, as it celebrates its 50th Anniversary, the Little League Softball program is excited to see recent growth as well as continued opportunities lining up for the future.
“On behalf of our entire staff and the millions of volunteers around the world who make this program possible, I want to thank everyone for the role they have played in helping make the Little League Softball program what it is today,” said Ashlea Miller, Little League® Director of Softball Development. “While this year marks a celebration of 50 years of our program, we have so much more to look forward to in the next 50 years and I can’t wait to help bring the unique Little League experience to millions of children around the world.”
History and Growth
Established as a pilot program in 1974 to gauge interest from local leagues across the country, the Little League Softball program quickly caught the eyes of young women with more than 50,000 girls hitting the fields across 460 Little League programs. Enthused by the abundance of interest, Little League extended the softball program, allowing young female athletes to continue creating core memories at the state and region levels, eventually leading to the formation of the first-ever LLSWS in 1974. In addition to more historical information in the link below, Little League will also be launching a five-part documentary series as part of its GWG50 Celebration to detail the history and future of the Little League Softball program.
Since its inaugural season, the program has continued to grow and bring softball to communities all around the world thanks to the millions of dedicated volunteers who step up to the plate. Today, the Little League Softball program has more than 25,000 softball teams and approximately 300,000 participants (ages 4-16) in more than 25 countries worldwide. Since 2018, and with the launch of the Girls with Game initiative in 2019, Little League Softball has seen a growth of 8% in participation across the board and is a key strategic focus as part of Little League’s female inclusion efforts.
One of the most important benefits that the Little League Softball program provides is the opportunity to connect generations of the game and offer role models for the young Girls with Game who participate in the program. To enhance those experiences, Little League has worked with a number of its supporters to bring these opportunities to life, including:
- Athletes Unlimited Partnership: With its official partnership created in 2020, Little League and Athletes Unlimited (AU) Pro Softball have worked together to connect the youngest level of the game with the top in the world in a variety of ways. From coordinating live and digital events to engage Little Leaguers with AU athletes to the historic AU Pro Games at the Little League Softball World Series, AU and Little League have worked together to give young softball players a set of role models and mentors to support them throughout their entire softball journey.
- Girls with Game Experience: Since its inaugural game in October 2022, the Little League Girls with Game Experience brings collegiate softball to the home of the Little League Baseball® World Series, offering young softball players and coaches a chance to network and learn from NCAA Division I Softball players and coaches.
- Partner Involvement: In addition to their own hosted events and opportunities, Little League works with all its official partners to bring the experiences to life both in person and through digital efforts. From T-Mobile bringing top names in the game like Jaiden Fields and Jayda Coleman to meet with players at the Little League Softball World Series to DICK’s Sporting Goods working with the pros to offer tips for young softball players, all of Little League’s official partners have aligned to support female participation across the board.
Setting Up For Success
While the program is celebrating 50 years in 2024, there is so much more in store for the future, including:
- Upcoming Grant Opportunities: This February, Little League will be launching a $250,000 grant program to help invest in the growth, development, and support of female participation across the board. This grant funding will be used for a variety of different areas, including leagues that add softball programs, marketing opportunities to expand existing softball programs, umpire school scholarships for female umpires, scholarships for clinics and other training events, and support of female participation in baseball programs.
- League Choice Option for Ages 4-7: Starting with the 2025 season, children at the youngest levels of the Little League program (League Age 4-7) throughout the United States will have the ability to register and play for any local Little League program they choose, without respect to any geography- or school-related eligibility requirements. Additionally, in an effort to assist these families at these youngest divisions to choose the best league for their situation, as well as to further support the administrative needs of its local league volunteers, Little League International will also be launching a Central Registration Platform, which will be mandatory for U.S. leagues to use starting with the 2025 season. Learn more about both of these at org/2025Registration.
- Training Opportunities for Coaching Females: As part of its overall female inclusion efforts, Little League is also working on creating a training opportunities for its volunteer coaches that is focused on education around coaching females both on and off the field. As a branch of its Diamond Leader program, this training will help provide Little League’s volunteer coaches with the tools and resources they need to provide young girls with a fun and memorable experience from their first year in the program.
- Enhanced Television Coverage: Over the past few years, Little League has worked with its partner at ESPN to bring a larger spotlight to its softball coverage throughout the summer, including the addition of six Region Championship games on ESPN and the LLSWS championship on ABC. With their partnership recently extended through 2030, Little League and ESPN remain committed to continuing to shine the spotlight on the Little League Softball program and bringing the fun and excitement to millions of families all around the world each summer.
To learn more about the entire #GWG50 Celebration, including the 50th Anniversary of the Little League Softball World Series, visit LittleLeague.org/GWG50. The #GWG50 celebration is proudly supported by DICK’S Sporting Goods, a long-time Little League partner that is committed to creating opportunities for girls and women in sports and will be activating around key events and milestones this year.