Portsmouth Little League in Rhode Island was looking for help with their softball program, hoping to enhance the experience and inspire girls to hit the field. So, they turned to the Little League® Grow The Game Grant Program. The program has greatly assisted local leagues from around the world, providing more than a million dollars to make sure children have opportunities to enjoy the game they love. A good portion of the grants have gone to leagues to assist with field and facility improvements, which are important. However, Portsmouth Little League applied for a grant for something a little different – they were looking to grow the game through player development.
Portsmouth Little League started 60 years ago, and in the early 1970s, allowed girls to play baseball in the Little League (Major) Division. In the late ’70s, the league launched a softball program. While the number of softball participants has remained consistent over the years, nearby AAU programs were threatening to draw more players from Portsmouth Little League.
“We had to start thinking creatively to keep our girls from leaving Little League for the AAU programs,” said Stacie Iannuccillo MacDonald, Vice President of Portsmouth Softball. “We wanted to develop a series of training clinics to show our girls that they have the same potential as anyone playing for AAU programs.”
In February 2016, Little League presented Portsmouth Little League with a $15,000 grant. While the grant was used mostly for player development, the league also used a portion of the funds for field improvements and the addition of a batting cage.
Portsmouth Little League held six softball development clinics over the winter of 2016, building up to the spring. The local league teamed up with Salve University, who developed an extensive Pitching, Hitting, Fielding, Speed, Strength, Ability & Quickness Training Program. Sessions were held twice a week, each lasting an hour or hour-and-a-half. College and professional coaches taught the program.
“The Little League grant supported our efforts more than I can say,” said Ms. Iannuccillo MacDonald. “Training and development is key to being competitive, and it helps to develop the necessary skills to see success on the field. If kids are successful and have fun, they’ll want to keep playing Little League. We worked hard during the winter leading into the 2016 spring season, and the results were impressive. The girls were so engaged at all the clinics. So many players improved and built up their stamina.”
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All the hard work payed off. While the Major Division softball squad lost in the District Tournament final, they played well as a team and played in sync.
“They never gave up, and their commitment was awesome,” said Ms. Iannuccillo MacDonald.
The Portsmouth Little League softball program has approximately 55 players, beginning at the Tee Ball level. The league typically fields one Minor Division team and two Major Division teams. This year, the league is proud to announce that it looks very likely that they’ll field a Junior/Senior Division team. And the player development program they initiated through the Little League Grow the Game Grant Program is helping this league provide more quality experiences for the female athletes in its community!