Don’t change the 21U Women’s Nationals to 19U
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Baseball Canada is trying to change the 21U Women’s Nationals to 19U so more provinces will send a team to women’s nationals. However, this takes away opportunities for women 20-21 and will likely contribute to girls quitting baseball after high school. 24 potential players for the 2020 Nationals will not be able to play if this change is made.
Here is the email we will send to Baseball Canada with this petition attached.
We understand that the 21U Women’s Invitational tournament may be changed to 19U and have some concerns to raise to ensure that the voices of the players, coaches and parents are heard. We believe the change would take away an opportunity for many girls, lower the level of play, skew opportunities towards younger players, and that girls will actually quit baseball because of this decision.
Changing this tournament from 21U to 19U takes away an opportunity for a large number of Canadian players. Over 20 of the veteran players at the 21U tournament are 19 or older and will be affected by this decision, taking away an opportunity for a large number of women who play baseball in Canada to play at a competitive level. Put simply, that is more players than are on the women's national team who will miss out on the experience of playing competitively at this level.
At age 20-21, opportunities for girls in baseball already drastically decrease with there being few travel teams for that age range, and no further opportunities in little league or high school ball. The 21U women's team is one of the few options for players in this age range to participate in the sport. A lot of focus has been put into getting girls to start playing baseball; less, however, has been put in to keeping them in the game. This decision seems like a step in the opposite direction, discouraging girls from continuing to play.
The 21U tournament is very competitive with a great mix of new and experienced players. Changing it to 19U will lower the level of play since many players with years of experience would be cut out leaving the teams with young players very similar to the 16U provincial teams. If you look at the previous three years of competition at the 21U tournament, there have been some tremendous games played in both the round robin and playoff rounds. In addition, there has been great talent on display, that would otherwise not be showcased if this tournament did not exist. Many players at the 21U level are unable to crack a starting spot on their respective women’s teams, and thus, do not get to showcase their talent anywhere other than the 21U tournament.
Girls have many options to play competitively until they turn 19 with the 16U, 19U, and potentially even a 14U national championship. However, after aging out of a 19U tournament, the women's tournament will be their only option, forcing them to compete where they are younger and less experienced against national team veterans. For the Ontario 21U team, only 3 or 4 players were cut from making the team, and they were all young and will have an opportunity to practice and try out again next year. However, if it were to be 19U, six potential returning players would be missing out on the opportunity to compete in this tournament as a veteran player. The 21U tournament includes everyone and does not take away opportunity as the 19U tournament would.
The 21U championship at RCGT Park in Ottawa has brought out some of the biggest crowds yet for this level of play, showing that there is public interest and creating significant momentum towards growing the sport and showcasing the highest level of women's baseball.
The change that is being considered not only will reduce opportunities for girls in baseball, but will likely entice many girls and women to stop playing baseball altogether. As mentioned earlier, at the age of 20 and 21, girls have significantly less opportunities to play baseball, with fewer travel teams, no high school team, and having graduated little league (this is not even considering the fact these are not teams specifically for girls, usually these girls are the only one on their team). With their options reduced to a men's league team, or maybe a girls team if they are lucky, not many girls will stick it out and develop in the ways they could if the 21U level were to remain as an option. With only playing women’s, players who have to travel long distances to practice with their provincial teams will be putting considerable time, effort and expense into preparing for only one tournament. Though these players are all dedicated and motivated to continue to play, this decision puts up considerable barriers to them staying in the game.
From a coaching perspective, teams would lose many players. In the case of Ontario, the roster would go from 12 returning players at 21U to 6 at 19U. Players would need to be taken from 16U which would be unfair to that program as the tournaments are close together in August. Also, with the timing of the Women's tournament in early July those too old for 19U will have their season end during the first week of July. It would not be feasible for those out of town girls to spend money and time traveling to Toronto to play development games if there were no goal of provincial participation later in the summer. As a result,the development programs will also suffer as fewer girls will be committed to play. If our goal is to maximize participation in girls in baseball this change will have the opposite effect.
There has been talk that a 19U division will force more provinces to send women’s teams to the Women’s National Championship. There is an gap between the skill level of the 21U teams and the Women’s teams for most provinces. By removing the 21U division, this gap will only be increased. Teams will not be able to compete at the Women’s level, causing an even larger drop off in the number of females playing the game. The introduction of the 21U level not only allowed provinces such as Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan to send athletes to represent their province at a tournament above the 16U level, but also to do it competitively. It allowed athletes who otherwise felt that they did not belong in the women’s game to find a place to continue to play the sport they love at a level in which they could compete. Removal of the 21U tournament would remove this inclusive space for 24 athletes in 2020.
The 21U tournament provides more opportunities for girls in baseball which should be the goal of our national baseball organization. Organizing these tournaments also provides local organizers the opportunity to help grow the sport. For example, the organizing committee for this year's tournament in Ottawa helped get Canadian Girls Baseball to Ottawa to the city to get young girls in the game, ran multiple girls clinics, had radio and TV interviews that were aired nationally and locally talking about our experiences being women in baseball, and were involved in starting little league rookie girls teams. They’ve done a lot to build the profile of girls’ baseball and the sport is growing, so it seems ironic to be creating barriers for older players.
We are sure there are reasons this option is being considered of which we are unaware. However, we would like our voices to be heard because they are the ones affected most by your decisions. We hope you will hear our voices and thank you for taking the time to read this and see this from the players, coaches and parents’ point of view as we all work towards the goal of growing women's baseball in Canada. Thank you.
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