Traditionally in Fastpitch softball; February and March is the period of the season that each team is adding final preparations to a rock solid line-up and preparing for the sprint to Fall.. Schedules are being tweaked to add this showcase or that qualifier. The tournament line-up has to be perfect to develop a pitchers new pitch, or sync the catcher and the pitcher, or build team esteem. There seems to be a mad-dash to become the “best” tournament in the United States this year. Three parts of a tournament, value, competition, and exposure need to fit your teams’ goals and commitment level, to be beneficial to the success of your team.
Value can be assessed in different categories. The obvious is the amount of money. This is only a question you as a head coach or team manager can answer. There are many factors to consider, when analyzing a tournament fee. Will there be additional costs with travel fees, lodging fees, umpire fees, or gate fees? Do you have to pay for any specialty events at the tournament? Each tournament is different and unique, so ask the questions. The value in the cost really boils down to two factors: Can your team afford this tournament and will it be beneficial to your team.
Competition is probably the main factor to consider when researching your schedule. The first question (and most important) to ask and answer is what level is your team playing at now? Seek out tournaments that have competition slightly above your teams’ abilities. Two of the worst choices, you can make for your team, is to commit to a tournament that is either below your level or way above your level. All caliber of tournaments are being offered these days. Will the athletes you coach, have the opportunity to show their particular skill set? Some of the upper level tournaments are extremely difficult to enter, for a plethora of reasons. Some may not entertain your application because you are not part of a club system, or you played at a lower level the previous season, or you did not place in an “A” level nationals. This is OK because each team is different and unique. There are plenty of teams out there that offer your team the ability to improve and build confidence. There are benefits in choosing the correct competition level.
Exposure tournaments is another part of the equation, you need to consider in the 14U thru 18U age groups. Exposure will afford your athletes the ability to possibly pursue a college degree. One of the key elements of exposure is college coaches want to see the athletes skill set, being used under duress. This is difficult to attain if you are playing in a 5 game round robin tournament with no competitive side of the tournament. Showcase tournaments are migrating to a poll play into bracket play scenario. Identify showcase tournaments, that offer this type of play. This offers you the ability to showcase the talent on your team and allows the athletes to play for goal. Exposure tournaments become beneficial when the correct level and style are matched to your team.
Remember there are many tournaments out there with varying levels of cost, competition and exposure. The challenge is to correctly identify the proper tournament for your team and the value that is added to your team.