At Little League® International in Williamsport, Pa., and at our Regional Offices, calls and emails come in all year long about different situations that are happening at some of our 7,000 local leagues. Many of these calls and emails inform us of some very positive initiatives spearheaded by our millions of volunteers. However, there are also negative situations.

“Don’t Let This Happen to Your League” details a real-world scenario, how it has impacted a league, and how you might learn from it.

The names have been omitted in the following scenario, but the situation is real.

The Situation

A local league conducts its annual player registration. Among the children registering to play are several that use the school enrollment form, acknowledging that they currently attend school within the league’s boundaries. The league officials confirm that a school administrator has affixed their signature on the form, and accept the form without thoroughly reviewing the information. At the completion of registration, the league’s Vice President for the Little League Major Division tallies the number of children who are league-age eligible for the upcoming tryouts and draft, but does not fully investigate the documentation that was collected during registration. The league progresses through player evaluation and selection to form its teams for the coming season. As the regular season plays out, attentions turn toward the tournament season. The league’s Board of Directors tasks the Player Agent with the responsibility of gathering commitments for all age-eligible players interested in being considered for the league’s Major Division baseball and softball teams. After doing so, the Player Agent compiles a list of players, assembles the documents required for tournament player verification, and submits the documents to the District for approval.

The Outcome

The Player Agent assumed the district staff would provide a thorough and official review, while the District staff was under the impression that the league’s Player Agent did her due diligence by confirming the documentation submitted was correct. As one of the league’s softball teams prepared for its first District game, the game official on site notices that the school enrollment form for three different players that attend the same school were not properly completed by the school administrator and did not confirm enrollment prior to October 1, therefore those three players were not eligible to play in the game or the tournament until proper documentation could be obtained. With such a large number of players potentially ineligible, the manager choses to forfeit the game rather than play under protest. Incensed by what happened, the manager immediately calls the League President wanting an explanation. In disbelief, the League President and Player Agent subsequently confront the District Administrator about the oversight, and demand that the tournament not proceed until the over site can be addressed.

After the District Administrator takes a second look at the documentation, she confirmed that the school administrator signed the school enrollment form but did not confirm enrollment prior to October 1 of the previous year, making it invalid as proof to establish school attendance for the current season. Therefore, all three players were ineligible until a corrected form was provided. The tournament was delayed while the school administrator completed the form, and it was reviewed, and approved by the District Administrator. The team did eventually get to play, but with one forfeit and the distraction to the team, it lost its next two games and was eliminated from the district tournament.

The Solution

Being diligent, and double-checking when confirming league eligibility, is essential when a local league conducts player registration. Don’t assume others have completed all forms correctly. But, done right, the preseason confirmation and tournament verification processes should go hand-in-hand. It is highly recommended and strong encouraged that all local league Board of Directors understand Little League’s rules and regulations regarding player enrollment and eligibility prior to hosting registration. The information and documents collected are to be organized in securely cataloged so that any player in the league can be efficiently referenced. Little League verifies each player’s eligibility prior to the start of each level of play, but initial assembly of the tournament verification documents is the responsibility of the local league, and it the district’s task to confirm the documents are in order, and point out any discrepancies or questionable materials. No player is to be deemed eligible for tournament participation until the District Administrator signs off.