Authors: Timothy Hatten, Adrian
Thomas and Shaine Henert
Timothy L. Hatten, Ph.D, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, DCT
3301 N. Mulford Road
Rockford, IL. 61114
Hatten is a Full Professor and Academic
Chair in the Department of Fitness,
Wellness and Sport at Rock Valley College.
Dr. Hatten has over 30 years of experience, playing, managing and
sponsoring male fastpitch softball.
Adrian Thomas, Helford Endowed Chair of Psychology, is currently the Director of Industrial and Organizational Psychology Ph.D. Program and a Full Professor at Roosevelt University.
Shaine Henert is an Associate Professor and Program Director in the Deparment of Kinesiolgy and Physical Education at Northern Illinois University.
Solutions to Declining Participation Rates in United States Male Fastpitch Softball
The sport of fastpitch softball (FS)
has been popular in American sports and recreation dating back to at least 1933
with the formation of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA), the sport’s
governing body (5). In the United States,
after a meteoric rise in participation through most of the century, more
recently male fastpitch softball (MFS) has seen an equally dramatic downward
trend in participation rates.
The purpose of the current study was
to obtain baseline beliefs about the etiology of the decreasing participation
rates in MFS from current participatory stakeholders. A survey of nine questions was distributed to
the FS community via Survey Monkey through two softball websites that disseminate
information about MFS. The survey was
placed on Al’s Fastball and Fastpitch West FS internet sites for one month and (n=415) current and former participants,
coaches and/or sponsors completed the survey. The current study participants felt strongly that
the major reasons for the decline in participation included the importance of
local adult leagues (95.9%), lack of media exposure (88.9%), loss of boy’s
youth FS programs (88.6%) and the increasing costs (88.2%) associated with MFS.
When asked how the governing body of
softball might address these reasons for the observed decline in participation
respondents deemed increasing youth involvement (42.4%) as the number one
potential solution. In order, the other
areas that participants felt were important were developing new pitchers
(36.9%), improving grassroots programs (29.6%), and increasing media exposure
(27.1%). Declining participation rates
in MFS has been an ongoing issue for many years and many rationales for the
decline have been offered by both experts and novices. By going directly to the real stakeholders, in
MFP, it is hoped that outcomes of the current study include empirical
confirmation for some oft voiced reasons for the decline in participation as
well as providing some real solutions for reversing the trend.