Age divisions and what to expect.
Updated Monday July 23, 2018 by MGSA.
The game of softball is played by millions of children worldwide. To some, the skills needed to master the game come naturally while other girls have to work very hard to keep up with their peers and some girls are at the field for no other reason than to socialize with their friends. As a parent, it can be frustrating to see a ball roll between your child’s legs or see them bring the ball up for a throw only to have the ball slip out of their hand and fly 15 feet backwards. The best thing you can do for your child is encourage her to keep trying. Some players will never quite “get it” but softball can still be a good experience for them if you help keep it fun by not pointing out every error and, instead, emphasize the things that are being done right. You can start the post-game/practice chat with the question “did you have fun today?”
The goal of the MGSA is develop players from 6U through 19U by challenging them at each age level. Player abilities are all over the place through childhood and adolescence. To help you get a feel for what to expect, the following is what you will generally find at each age level - remember that everyone learns at their own pace.
Age divisions - A player’s age for the year is determined by their age on December 31 of the previous year. For example, a player who was 6 on December 31 but turns 7 on January 1 is considered 6 years old for the entire calendar year. USA Softball breaks divisions into two-year groups. 6U is for players 6 years old and under. 8U is for 8 years old and under and so on. Your child may play in a higher division than her age but cannot play in a lower division. MGSA encourages players to move up in the fall season before the spring they must move up so they can get early exposure the the new rules and different game-pace of the higher division.
- 6U - The players are simply learning to play softball. In general you should expect a long, slow learning process. The emphasis should be entirely upon fun. The more fun that the kids have, the more likely they are to develop a life-long love of softball. The most important skill to work on is throwing. The girls will have anywhere from some knowledge of the game, to no knowledge of the game. This is a coach-pitch division and the batting tee is used when needed.
- 8U - Players of differing degrees of ability. Some girls will have no prior experience and will need to be taught everything. Some children will be able to hit, throw, catch and run having already played for two years. The coach’s role is to have fun, build enthusiasm among the girls for softball, and teach the basics of softball. Throwing correctly is still the most important skill. By the end of the 2nd spring season, each girl should be able to throw, catch, know the positions, be aware of where the play is, and be able to hit a pitched ball most of the time. Girls expressing in interest in pitching should be working on their own, outside of team practices. At this level, it is not unusual for every player to express an interest in pitching. This is a coach-pitch/player-pitch division and the batting tee is used when needed. The pitching distance is set at 30’
- 10U - This division continues the blend of never before played with the now experienced. While the coach emphasis remains on fun, the girls will start to put more emphasis on winning and doing well. Player pitching is introduced at this level and it changes everything. With a few rule modifications, the girls start playing “real ball” at this level with overthrows, backing up, and limited stealing becoming part of the game. At 10U, the girls who work at pitching start to stand out from the girls that only practice with the team. By the end of the 2nd spring season, some players are attending clinics, working with older players or taking private lessons. Pitching is normally not very strong, with pitchers throwing strikes about 40 to 50% of the time. Girls with an interest in catching should be able to throw down to 2nd base on one-hop or better. This division begins player-pitch only and the pitching distance is set at 35’
- 12U - This is where you start to recognize the game you see at the high school or college level. With some girls having played for several years, many of the teams know each other and though the games are very competitive, they usually remain friendly. The players know the rules and know the game. Players other than pitcher/catcher are showing position-specific interests. Skill development is as much strategic—“knowing what to do”—as it is physical—“knowing how to do it.” Pitching is still very inconsistent and the better pitchers, those throwing strikes more than 50% of the time, are typically working 2 or 3 days a week outside of team practice. Some players at this level are taking lessons or attending clinics in preparation for high school ball. The pitching distance is set at 40’
- 14U - There are few differences between 12U and 14U, most notable is the pitching distance moves back to 43’ where it will remain through the remainder of their playing time. Some players in this division also play high school ball and the games can be very fast-paced. Pitching more consistent and the players who continue to pitch at this age level are throwing strikes about 60% of the time.
- 19U - Fall Ball Only - This division is intended for girls in or entering High School. Rules are essentially the same as 14U. Effective pitchers will have good control and can spot most of their pitches at will.
As your child moves up through each division, she may express concern about “playing with the older girls” when it is time for her to move up. It is important to remember that players on the other teams are also moving up.
The goal of MGSA is to build a love for the game of softball by having fun while playing. Winning is but a small part of the game. When winning becomes the goal, the team loses.
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