Over the course of its 80-year history, Little League® has grown into the world’s largest youth sports organization with millions of children playing baseball and softball in more than 80 countries around the world each year. Heading into a new decade in 2020, Little League remains committed to embracing the rich tradition and history its volunteers have worked so hard to establish, but also recognizes that society, as well as the game of baseball and softball, is constantly evolving from what began in 1939.
As the youth sports industry continues to evolve, Little League will continue to lead the way as it launches a renewed focus around the core values of its program as part of a five-year strategic plan. Rallying around a “Player First” approach in every aspect of its program, this strategic plan will continue to allow Little League to emphasize the important role the program plays in the development of its youth and for the growth of community support around the world during a time when society needs it the most.
The heart of the Little League program has, and will always be, the players taking the field in their communities all over the world, and as an organization, Little League continues to focus on the lifelong benefits that learning through sport provides. Little League remains confident in the power of baseball and softball to teach life lessons that build stronger individuals and communities. However, none of this could be possible without the dedicated, passionate adult volunteers and families, and it is on every member of this program to embrace their roles with a “player first” culture and mindset in every decision and action that follows suit.
Through the implementation of the strategic plan, Little League International will be instituting a number of strategic initiatives with a focus to not only encourage more players to become involved with the Little League program, but also to provide the best Little League experience for each and every one of them. While more details will be communicated to its local leagues as they become available throughout the course of the year, here is a first glance at some of these initiatives that will be implemented:
Modernizing Little League’s Story, Brand, and Image
A program rich in tradition and history, Little League’s name and reputation has become synonymous with youth baseball and softball programs around the world these last 80 years, but its story must continue to be told in new ways across generations. This year, Little League International will launch a new image, mission and story as it continues to build and maintain its world-class reputation while communicating a modern and relevant version of its story.
Breaking Down Barriers of Participation
Little League takes pride in ensuring that every child has the opportunity to be a part of its program. Understanding the importance of this more than ever, Little League will continue to explore new ways to provide increased accessibility in local leagues and reduce barriers into the program for families. From financial assistance support through grant programs and supporting participation for families suffering hardship to additional assistance through equipment donations and educational resources, Little League International is dedicated to making sure every player has the ability to join a Little League program and benefit from the program as it was intended. In addition, Little League will continue to evaluate the overall communities it serves by assessing boundary maps within each region to help ensure that more players have the ability to join a local league while still maintaining the community-based appeal that this program was founded upon.
Increasing Education Opportunities for Coaches
Coaches are vital to the youth sports experience for players, especially at the youngest levels of the game. In addition to providing free educational resources through its online platform, Little League University, Little League will embrace new opportunities to work with partners, such as USA Baseball, to help bring new coaching experiences and resources to influence the quality of coaching in a way that considers holistic experience for players.
Celebrating and Encouraging Female Participation
As Little League continues to look ahead to the future, the role that female participants and volunteers play in the Little League program has never been more paramount. The launch of the Girls with Game Initiative in 2019 was just another step in the celebration of those dedicated females as it aims to inspire and provide well-deserved recognition those who have helped create the next chapter of the Little League program. As Little League continues to build on the success of its Girls with Game Initiative, it will continue to explore new ways to get girls involved in both its softball and baseball programs not only as players, but as volunteer coaches and umpires as well.
Identifying New Ways to Keep the Game Fun and Active
All around the world, it is important that all children have the opportunity to have the full experience of Little League and feel included in every aspect of the program, especially in a world today that is filled with countless opportunities and other programs for families to get involved in. As Little League looks to find ways to keep its program relevant, fun, and exciting for the future generations to come, it is important that Little League remains at the forefront of identifying alternate methods of game play to enhance the player experience as well as exploring new ways to get groups of children out to the ballpark for a day of fun. Researched and tested thoroughly at a number of local Little League programs, these new initiatives, such as modified gameplay methods with runners on base and adjusted starting batter counts, as well as alternative methods of activity that includes a Sandlot-style program to have children go out and play, will help encourage physical activity, increase game speed, and enhance community development of the Little League program.
Growing the Game
While Little League remains the world’s largest youth sports organization with children participating in all 50 U.S. states and more than 80 countries around the globe, the efforts to grow the game to more communities worldwide is far from over. In addition to the expansion of teams and opportunity for communities to participate in the Little League Baseball® and Little League Softball® World Series in 2021, Little League remains dedicated to finding new ways to create opportunities for leagues to develop the program in their communities as well as bring the unique experience of Little League to new communities around the world. Focused on growth of the game in International countries, Little League also continues to invest in its member leagues in the United States through the Grow the Game Grant Program, offering unique financial support to initiatives that help to sustain the program.
As these new initiatives continue to develop, Little League International asks for all of its volunteers and families to adopt this “Player First” approach in all of their efforts and remain committed to the development and growth of the future generations of Little Leaguers® all around the world.
For more information on these initiatives, and to keep up-to-date with Little League’s “Player First” approach, visit LittleLeague.org/PlayerFirst.