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Softball America Challenges ASA For Governing Body Status
The National Fastpitch Coaches Association has joined with several othersoftball associations to form Softball America, an umbrella organization developed for the purpose of uniting U.S. softball groups for the betterment of the sport.
The non-profit structure is comparable to that of USOC-designated national governing bodies USA Baseball and USA Basketball. Softball America's primary purpose is to foster national and international amateursports competition in softball.
"Many of the softball organizations have become increasingly frustratedwith the lack of input we have in the matters of softball in this country,"said Lacy Lee Baker, NFCA executive director. "By becoming a member ofSoftball America, we can work with other organizations to try to take agreater role in the administration of the sport."
On September 27, 2001, Softball America officially challenged the AmateurSoftball Association (ASA) to become national governing body of the sport ofsoftball. Legal papers, including the association's bylaws, board of directors and challenge issues against the ASA, were sent to the United States Olympic Committee, the ASA and the International Softball Federation.
"The governing body should be made up of all viable softball organizations, and they should have a say in the governing body," said Obie Evans, executive director of Dixie Softball, a girls' youth softball organization based in Birmingham, Alabama, and one of the charter members of Softball America."Our brother program USA Baseball allows this on the baseball side and it works well. Why should softball be any different?" Evans said.
Evans' remarks are based on what the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act outlines for national governing bodies (NGBs). According to the act, one of the ASA's NGB charges is to "develop interest and participation throughout the United States and be responsible to the persons and amateur sports organizations it represents."
In the ASA structure, however, organizations have little opportunity to strongly impact decisions.
There are no allied members on the board, while the opposite is true inUSA Baseball -- their board is made up primarily of amateur baseballorganizations.
There are very few women on the board, which also is a violation of theTed Stevens Sports Act, which requires "reasonable representation of bothmales and females" if the NGB governs a girls' and women's sport. At lastcount, there were five women on the ASA board out of a total of 33 (15percent). One is a regional vice president and the other four are athleterepresentatives, which is the percentage (20%) of athlete representativesmandated by the USOC.
Through the ASA structure, organizations such as Dixie and NFCA can jointhe ASA as allied or affiliated members. According to the ASA Code, anyorganization that was admitted as an allied member prior to December 31,1993, shall be entitled to one vote on the ASA Council, so long as itremains continuously a member of ASA. The code further states that theaffiliated members as a group can have one representative. Currently thereare about 300 members on the ASA Council, so the NFCA, which joined the ASAin 1988 as an allied member, has one of about 300 votes.
"Currently, I'm the co-chair of the ASA's own Allied/Affiliated MembersCommittee, and many of the national associations who have joined the ASAhave serious concerns regarding the ASA's willingness to listen and workwith the other organizations. In fact, there are many softball organizations who have even refused to join the ASA because of this perceived lack ofrespect. In addition, if they joined now, they wouldn't even get a vote oftheir own on the ASA Council.
"With Softball America, we are trying to give all softball organizations, including the ASA, an opportunity to join together to grow the sport and represent it in the manner it deserves," Baker continued.
Two men's fastpitch organizations are charter members of Softball America-- International Softball Congress (ISC) and North American FastpitchAssociation (NAFA). They see the need for Softball America in a much moreurgent light since boys' and men's fastpitch numbers have steadily decreasedin the last few decades.
"During the two years I spent on the men's national team selectioncommittee, I was given assurances by several ASA people of a new approach todeveloping players and enhancing male fastpitch," said Ken Hackmeister, ISCexecutive director. "None of those promises have come to fruition. A verydetailed developmental business plan even was submitted to the ASA andcompletely ignored, and the selection committee still has members who arenot associated with the game. The ASA has not fulfilled its commitment thatwas made to us nor have we seen any efforts to help our game grow and develop new players."
NAFA Executive Director Pat Bucknell also has concerns. "I think the ASAhas turned its back on the men's fastpitch game completely, 100 percent. Ifit's not slowpitch or girls' and women's fastpitch, it doesn't exist. It'sa sad situation and if something isn't done to turn it around, thereprobably won't be a men’s fastpitch program by 2005," Bucknell said.
The American Fastpitch Association (AFA) also is a member of SoftballAmerica, and several others are considering membership. Softball Americaallows for five classes of members -- (A) national associations, (B) local,regional or other organizations, (C) coaches, (D) amateur athletes,trainers, managers, umpires or administrators active in softball, and (E)any individual or organization which supports in word and action, thepolicies, goals and programs of Softball America, but is not otherwiseeligible as a Class A, Class B, Class C or Class D member.
If you believe in this effort, you are encouraged to join. An applicationform will appear on the web in the the coming month, or you can receive oneby contacting the NFCA at 573/875-3033 or byemail.
Purposes of Softball America
The primary purpose of Softball America is to foster national andinternational amateur sports competition in softball. Additionally, SoftballAmerica is a non-profit corporation organized for educational and charitablepurposes in order to encourage and develop softball participation in thehighest traditions of competition. Pursuant to such purposes which meet the responsibilities of USOC-designated national governing bodies, thisssociation shall:
(1) Develop interest and participation throughout the United States andbe responsible to the persons and amateur sports organizations, and to othersoftball organizations, active in the sport of softball.
(2) Assist member organizations and persons concerned with softball inthe development of amateur athletic programs in the sport, and in theconducting and promoting of annual local to national amateur softballchampionships.
(3) To provide a channel of direct communication among softballorganizations to minimize conflicts in the scheduling of all practices andcompetitions in the sport of softball.
(4) Keep athletes active in the sport of softball informed of policymatters and reasonably reflect the views of such athletes in the policydecisions of the Association.
(5) Provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by menand women in the sport of softball, providing an equal opportunity toamateur athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, administrators and officialsto participate in amateur softball competition, without discrimination onthe basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, physicalhandicap, sexual orientation or national origin, and with fair notice andopportunity for a hearing to any such individual before declaring suchindividual ineligible to participate.
(6) Seek to advance softball to allow the U.S. to field the mostcompetitive teams possible in international competitions.
(7) Encourage and support amateur athletic softball programs forindividuals with disabilities and the participation of such individuals inamateur softball activity, including, where feasible, the expansion ofopportunities for meaningful participation by individuals with disabilitiesin programs of softball competition for able-bodied individuals.
(8) Provide and coordinate technical information on physical training,equipment design, coaching and performance analysis in the sport ofsoftball.
(9) Encourage and support research, development and dissemination ofinformation in the areas of sports medicine and sports safety in the sportof softball.
(10) Provide leadership and training for softball coaches, instillingwithin them a deep sense of responsibility for developing and conductingprograms that will enrich the lives of the participants.
(11) Be committed to equal opportunity and fair treatment providing forequal opportunity to all applicants for employment and to employees withoutregard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, physicalhandicap, sexual orientation or marital status, and shall actively involvequalified minorities and women, and similarly encourage its constituentstoward such involvement, to occupy positions at all levels of thisAssociation including the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, standingcommittees and the administrative staff.