So many people think that Little League® stops when a player is 12 years old, and that is usually the swing age for a child’s participation. So, what motivates a Little Leaguer to stay with baseball or softball? Perspective for the answer however is unique to each player, family, and, inevitably, the local league and community.
Similar to the decision that young parents make to enter a child into the Little League Tee Ball program, there is also a choice that a family makes to continue playing into the teenage divisions of the Little League program. The difference is, the children have much more of an impact on that decision, whether that say so, or not. And there are plenty of reasons to keep playing in the Little League program.
Opportunities for Children Up to 16 Years Old
In 2013, Little League International listened to its local leagues, constituents, and parents by developing the Intermediate 50/70 Baseball Division to improve the experience for children ages 11-13 as they transition from the Little League diamond to the standard diamond. More recently, the teenage divisions were re-structured by Little League to more thoroughly accommodate the children from the ages of 13 through 16.
- The Intermediate 50/70 division, is Little League’s newest division. For players league-age 11-13, this division of Little League Baseball® offers postseason tournament opportunities, including a World Series that is currently played in Livermore Calif., The division was created to offer a transition level for players between the standard Little League field size (46-foot pitching distance and 60-foot base paths) and the standard field size (60-foot, 6-inch pitching distance and 90-foot base paths). Many of the Little League teenage divisions (Junior and Senior) rules are used, such as runners being permitted to lead off bases, runners may attempt to steal at any time, and allowing an on-deck batter.
- The Junior League Baseball Division is a program for boys and girls ages 12-14, that plays on a conventional 90-foot diamond, with a pitching distance of 60 feet, 6 inches. Modified diamond dimensions may be used during the regular season. The local league has an option to choose a Tournament Team (or “All Stars”) of 12-14-year-olds from within this division (and/or from within the Senior League Division), and the team may enter the International Tournament. The Junior League Baseball World Series, is played annually in Kalamazoo, Mich.
- The Junior League Softball Division uses a 60-foot diamond with a 43 foot pitching distance. A local league may dual-roster 12-year-olds, assessed capable, to a Major and a Junior Division softball teams. The local league has an option to choose a Tournament Team (or “All Stars”) of 12-14-year-olds from within this division (and/or from within the Girls Senior League Softball Division), and the team may enter the International Tournament. The Junior League Softball World Series is played each summer in Kirkland, Wash.
- The Senior League Baseball Division is for boys and girls 13-16 years old, using a conventional 90-foot diamond with a pitching distance of 60 feet, 6 inches. The local league has an option to choose a Tournament Team (or “All Stars”) of 13-16-year-olds from within this division (and/or from within the Junior League division), and the team may enter the International Tournament. The Senior League Baseball World Series is played during the month of August in Bangor, Maine.
- The Senior League Softball Division is for girls 13-16 years old, and uses a 60-foot diamond with a pitching distance of 43 feet. The local league has an option to choose a Tournament Team (or “All Stars”) of 13-16-year-olds from within this division (and/or from within the Junior League Softball divisions), and the team may enter the International Tournament. The Senior League Softball World Series is contested in Lower Sussex, Del.
Each team that advances to a World Series has its expenses (travel, meals and housing) paid by Little League International.
Ability for Players to Grow, Have Fun, and Experience New Challenges
The joy of playing, and the moments that occur from taking part and having fun with friends are often cited as reason why a player continues in Little League. Part of shaping the neighborhood Little League program, and keeping it fun and engaging, comes down to the parents and the players wanting to participate. If there is a want, then there is a need, which families can meet by supporting Little League Baseball and Softball’s Teenage Divisions. This includes the experience of traveling to play, which is available through interleaguing with nearby Little Leagues and combined teams; or by teenagers volunteering with local leagues when not playing. Little League is what you make it. Similar to the start that the youngest Little Leaguers enjoy, the teenagers, given the opportunity, can take the life lessons learned on the Little League field and apply them to future experiences as they mature toward adulthood.
Commitment from the League
From the league’s point of view, certain fundamental decisions must be made, such as where to play, who will oversee the program, what teams to play, and where does the volunteer and financial support come from. Parents can go a long way toward answering these questions by offering their assistance by volunteering as coaches, joining the local league’s Board of Directors, donating time to maintain the field and surrounding facility, and in many other ways.
Opportunity, in whatever form, is positive for growth and expansion. Through the Intermediate 50/70 Baseball Division, and the Junior and Senior Divisions, Little League® Baseball and Softball offers the opportunity for teenage players to continue playing into their high school years, and their families to support and enjoy their continued participation in both sports.
Whether gradually moving from the 60-foot to the 70-foot diamond, or making the leap up to a full-size field with its 90-foot baselines, the options of what divisions to play, belong to you, and your Little Leaguer®.
Parents who embrace the options and flexibility of Little League after their child turns 12, open an avenue for their own family, along with their Little League family and community, to make memories, fortify friendships, build on the life lessons learned, and extend the fun of playing for years to come.