LITTLE LEAGUEÂ® INTERNATIONAL RESTRUCTURES ITS TEENAGE DIVISIO
LITTLE LEAGUE® INTERNATIONAL RESTRUCTURES ITS TEENAGE DIVISIONS
Energizing its focus on providing baseball and softball opportunities for young athletes, Little League to discontinue the Big League Baseball and Softball divisions, providing offerings for children 4 to 16 years old
Since its founding in 1939, Little League® International has paved the way in creating opportunities for children to have an organized sporting activity in their community. Continuing the organization’s efforts to provide local league volunteers and families with the best support and structure for operating local Little League programs, the Little League International Board of Directors approved the restructuring of its baseball and softball programs, dissolving the Big League Baseball and Big League Softball divisions, and capping participation in the Little League program for children 16 years old.
“Little League strives to continue to find new ways to support communities around the world and provide a healthy, fun sporting experience for children around the world,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “Over the past few years, our Little League parents, volunteers, and local league and District Administrators have expressed that Little League can best serve their communities through efforts focusing on the youngest levels of the games, providing the structure and support, so that boys and girls can develop their on-field skills while learning valuable life lessons.”
Over the past decade, the landscape of youth sports, specifically youth baseball and softball, has shifted, where more opportunities exist for teenagers, especially for players 17 and 18 years old, than ever before. As such, Little League International, at the urging of its local league volunteers, parents, and constituents, began to look at the structure of its entire organization to ensure that it is providing the best support for its local Little League programs. Throughout the winter of 2016, Little League engaged its District Administrators and other local league volunteers in a biannual review of Little League rules and regulations, where an agenda item on restructuring the teenage divisions of the Little League Baseball® and Little League Softball® programs was discussed, and ultimately voted on. A majority of the voting body of volunteers approved the measure that Little League should restructure its teenage divisions, eliminating one level of play for both baseball and softball.
After a thorough review, Little League International made the recommendation of dissolving the Big League divisions in both baseball and softball and capping participation in the Little League program at 16 years old. With direct input from the President’s Advisory Board, the Little League International Board of Directors Executive Committee, and Little League International Board of Directors Operating Committee, which includes the nine District Administrators who serve as Field Directors, the Little League International Board of Directors approved the restructuring at their August 26, 2016 meeting. Beginning with the 2017 season, the Little League Baseball and Little League Softball programs will focus its emphasis on providing opportunities for children 4 to 16 and eliminate the Big League Baseball and Big League Softball divisions for regular season and tournament play.
“Historically, the Big League divisions, and specifically participation of children 17 and 18 years old, has made up less than one percent of the entire Little League program, and has not seen any significant growth or decline over the past 15 years,” said Mr. Keener. “When thoroughly reviewing all our offerings, the Little League International Board of Directors felt that this restructuring was the best way to focus our efforts where the Little League program came make its most positive impact at the younger levels of the game.”
The restructuring is the latest action in Little League International’s efforts to enhance opportunities for its youngest participants and provide more children the opportunity have a quality Little League experience. In 2013, the Little League Intermediate (50/70) Baseball Division was launched for children 11 to 13 years old to provide a better transition for players going from the Little League field to the conventional baseball field. Little League has also created its new Tee Ball program focusing on fun, fitness, and fundamentals, and has begun implementing a new Age Determination Date for the Little League Baseball program, as part of its concerted efforts to provide more opportunities for children to develop as players and learn the important life lessons of teamwork, dedication, and fair play at a young age. Also, starting with the 2017 season, Little League International will begin separately chartering Coach Pitch, to be able to better serve this important transition from Tee Ball to the Major League (Little League) division.
As part of this restructuring, Little League International will also relocate the Senior League Baseball World Series from Bangor, Maine, to Easley, S.C., which had previously served as the home of the Big League Baseball World Series. The Senior League Softball World Series will remain in Lower Sussex, Del., which also hosted the Big League Softball World Series since 2013.
“For 15 years, the city of Bangor has been a wonderful host of the Senior League Baseball World Series, and words cannot express our sincere gratitude to our Tournament Director Mike Brooker, his fellow volunteers, and the entire city for their support,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “Equally, Easley has an incredible volunteer staff, led by Tournament Director Jon Humphrey, and support from the city. When reviewing both locations, Easley offers dormitory housing, with support from Clemson University, and is a more central location, with easier transportation options for all participants, families, and fans. This was an extremely difficult decisions given that both sites have fantastic facilities and volunteers that support our tournaments.”