An Introduction to USA Softball
Formerly the Amateur Softball Association (ASA), USA Softball has many important responsibilities as the National Governing Body of softball in the United States, including regulating competition to ensure fairness and equal opportunity to the millions of players who play the sport.
When USA Softball entered the picture in 1933, the sport was in a state of confusion with no unified set of playing rules and no National Governing Body to provide guidance and stability. USA Softball changed all that by adopting softball’s first universally accepted rules of play and by organizing consistent and fair competition across the nation. From this beginning, USA Softball has become one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing sports organizations and now sanctions competition in every state through a network of state/metro associations. USA Softball has grown from a few hundred teams in the early days to over 120,000 teams today, representing a membership of more than one million.
- Structure the organization to effectively respond to changing softball demographics and to set national standards.
- Provide initiatives for the growth of the game in collaboration with bat and ball sports.
- Increase opportunities and resources to create a culture of equity and inclusion.
- Foster an environment where safety and physical and mental well-bring are top priorities of all USA Softball participants.
- Leverage partnerships and industry-leading technology for the benefit of our membership.
- Promote an atmosphere that reflects the gold standard of teamwork, camaraderie and enthusiasm.
USA Softball has a membership of more than one million. Membership is made up of players, coaches and umpires from all 50 states in the U.S.
These players and coaches form teams that compete in league and tournament play across the country. USA Softball has grown from a few hundred teams in the early days to over 120,000 teams today. Travel teams looking to fulfill their competitive desires begin traveling, often crossing city and state boundaries, competing in USA Softball organized, county, district, state, regional and national tournaments. Teams compete in a network of qualifying tournaments through their state/metro associations for a chance to compete for the ultimate prize in softball-USA Softball National Championships. An estimated twenty percent of USA Softball registered softball teams compete at some level of Championship Play.
USA Softball’s membership base has been built from thousands of local (recreational) softball leagues throughout the United States. These leagues are organized through local park and recreation offices, private softball complexes or directly through one of the state/metro associations of USA Softball.
Leagues often times fall into the parameters of a local USA Softball district. These districts provide local organization to the teams and leagues that fall within it boundaries. At times, districts are the mediators between the state/metro association and teams.
There are local USA Softball associations across the United States that are administered by individuals known as Commissioners. These Commissioners have a staff comprised of a youth (JO) Commissioner, Umpire-in-Chief (UIC) and At-Large-Player Representative. Based on the number of teams registered in their area and the number of tournaments conducted locally, the staff is increased accordingly. Many of these administrators maintain voting privileges on USA Softball’s council that ultimately votes on the rules of softball and the code that governs USA Softball.
The USA Softball Board of Directors is comprised of USA Softball Council Members and athlete representatives. Each Region votes for one representatives to serve on their behalf, while there is also an At-Large Director and four Elite Athlete Representatives. The current USA Softball President, Past-President and President-Elect also serve as board members. Click here to view the list of USA Softball Board of Directors.
USA SOFTBALL – AT A GLANCE
Softball was invented inside the Farragut Boat Club on a blustery, winter day in November, 1887, in Chicago, IL. A bunch of Yale and Harvard alumni anxiously awaited the results of the Harvard-Yale football game, and when the news came that Yale had defeated Harvard, 17-8, one Yale supporter, overcome with enthusiasm, picked up an old boxing glove and threw it at a nearby Harvard alumni, who promptly tried to hit it back with a stick. This gave George Hancock, a reporter for the Chicago Board of Trade, an idea. He suggested a game of indoor baseball. Naturally, Hancock’s friends thought he was talking about playing a game outdoors, not indoors.
Hancock wasn’t kidding, however. Using what was available, he tied together the laces of the boxing glove for a ball. Using a piece of chalk, Hancock marked off a home plate, bases and a pitcher’s box inside the Farragut Boat Club gym, with the two groups divided into teams. The final score of the game was 41-40, but what was significant was that Hancock and his friends had invented a sport that would continue to grow in popularity to where today more than 40 million people enjoy playing it each summer, making softball the No. 1 team participant sport in the United States. Hancock’s invention eventually caught on in Chicago with the Farragut team challenging other gyms to games. In the spring, Hancock took his game outdoors and played it on fields not large enough for baseball. It was called indoor-outdoor and Hancock emerged as the recognized authority in the 19th century.
Hancock appended 19 special rules to adapt the outdoor game to the indoor game, and the rules were officially adopted by the Mid Winter Indoor Baseball League of Chicago in 1889. Hancock’s game gradually spread throughout the country and ultimately flourished in Minneapolis, thanks to the efforts and ingenuity of Lewis Rober, a Minneapolis Fire Department lieutenant, who wanted a game to keep his firemen fit during their idle time. Using a vacant lot adjacent to the firehouse, Rober laid out bases with a pitching distance of 35 feet. His ball was a small sized medicine ball with the bat two inches in diameter. The game became popular overnight and other fire companies began to play. In 1895, Rober transferred to another fire company and organized a team he called the Kittens. George Kehoe, captain of Truck Company No. 1, named Rober’s version of softball “Kitten League Ball” in the summer of 1900. It was later shortened to “Kitten Ball.”
Rober’s game was known as Kitten Ball until 1925, when the Minneapolis Park Board changed it to Diamond Ball, one of a half dozen names used during this time for softball. Indoor Ball, Kitten Ball, Playground Ball and Diamond Ball are just a few of the names people called what was eventually to become softball. Among them are Pumpkin Ball, Recreation Ball, Twilight Ball, Army Ball, Lightning Ball, Mushball, Big Ball and Night Ball.The name softball didn’t come about until 1926 when Walter Hakanson, a Denver YMCA official and a former ASA president and commissioner, suggested it to the International Joint Rules Committee. Hakanson had come up with the name in 1926, but the committee didn’t include the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) until 1934. Efforts to organize softball on a national basis didn’t materialize until 1933, when Leo Fischer and Michael J. Pauley, a Chicago Sporting goods salesman, conceived the idea of organizing thousands of local softball teams in America into cohesive state organizations, and state organizations into a national organization.
To bring the teams together, Fischer and Pauley invited them to participate in a tournament in conjunction with the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. With the backing of the Chicago American newspaper, Pauley and Fischer invited 55 teams to participate in the tournament. Teams were divided into three classes – fastballers, slow pitch and women. A 14-inch ball was used during the single-elimination event.
During the 1934 National Recreation Congress, membership on the Joint Rules Committee was expanded to add the Amateur Softball Association (ASA). Until the formation of the ASA, softball was in a state of confusion, especially in the rules area where the length of the bases and pitcher’s box were constantly being changed.
The formation of the ASA gave softball the solidarity and foundation it needed to grow and develop throughout the U.S. under the network of associations proposed by Fischer and Pauley. Pauley and Fischer visited many of the states, inviting teams to participate in the tournament. Fischer and his sports promotion director, Harry Wilson, sold the Century of Progress Exposition on the idea of sponsoring the tournament and providing a field inside the Fair Grounds. The American’s sports pages promoted the tournament daily and Chicago businessmen raised $500 to finance the event.
On the opening day of the 1933 tournament, the Chicago American said, “it is the largest and most comprehensive tournament ever held in the sport which has swept the country like wildfire.” With admission free, 70,000 people saw the first round of play. Chicago teams won the three divisions of play with Softball Hall of Famer Harry (Coon) Rosen leading the J.L. Friedman Boosters to the men’s title, one-hitting Briggs Beautyware of Detroit, MI, in the finals. It was the first loss of the season for Briggs after 41 consecutive wins.
It was evident that softball finally had a foundation from which to grow, and, in 1935, the Playground Association Softball Guide, wrote: “the years of persistent effort, constant promotion and unchanging faith of believers in softball proved to have not been in vain, for in 1934 softball came into its own. All over America hundreds of leagues and thousands of players enthusiastically accepted this major team game.
“The promotional activities of the ASA played an important part in stimulating the interest that has been developing for many years. The battle for recognition of this splendid game is over. Softball has won a place among America’s foremost sports.”
In June, 2016, ASA/USA Softball announced an organizational rename and rebrand to USA Softball and new logo. This new branding better reflects the vision of the organization for the growth of the sport and as the National Governing Body of Softball, USA Softball will continue to serve as the leader in the sport of softball while helping foster the passion and love for the game to all.
- USA Softball was founded as the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America in 1933 by Leo Fisher and Michael J. Pauley. Fischer and Pauley laid the foundation for softball’s future by adopting a universal set of rules, setting the stage for what would become softball’s National Governing Body.
- USA Softball was named the National Governing Body of Softball (NGB) in the United States by the United States Olympic Committee in 1978.
- USA Softball provides people of all ages the opportunity to play the game they love at a variety of levels. USA Softball offers recreational, league, tournament and National Championship play for fast pitch, slow pitch and modified pitch and annually conducts over 100 National Championships.
- USA Softball is the primary funding source and the pipeline to the USA Softball National teams programs. All six programs (Junior Women, Junior Men, Women, Men, Men’s and Women’s Slow Pitch) continue to compete at the highest levels because of the efforts put forth by USA Softball to keep athletes in the Red, White and Blue. USA Softball is the only softball association who supports this effort and provides the funds necessary for these teams on their road to representing the United States internationally at the Pan American Games, World Championships, Border Battle and Olympic Games.
USA Softball continues to give back to athletes and coaches through the National Team Programs. Our USA Softball athletes put on youth clinics, attend our JO USA Softball National Championships and participate on the National Council. Our National Team coaches also promote softball through National Coaching Schools and training camps for youth coaches and athletes.
- USA Softball is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization which means every dollar generated from grassroots softball goes directly back into improving and furthering the sport.
- The USA Softball National Office is located in Oklahoma City and has state/metro associations that register teams and organize leagues around the country.
- USA Softball owns and operates the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex, which is the Softball Capital of the World® and the Mecca of Softball®. Since it was built in 1987, the Complex has become home to some of the most outstanding softball events in the United States such as the NCAA Women’s College World Series (WCWS), the USA Softball International Cup (formerly known as the World Cup of Softball), Border Battle, GOLD National Championships and the USA Softball Slow Pitch Championship Series.
- USA Softball registers over 120,000 softball teams comprising over one million players.
- USA Softball has established the ACE (Achieve, Certify, Educate) Coaching Education Program to provide softball coaches of all levels an opportunity to become more educated in the game of softball.USA Softball runs and completes over 80,000 background checks a year and has adopted a SafeSport policy for coaches and volunteers who participate in our grassroots programs. Providing a safe environment for the athletes and their families is our number one priority.
- USA Softball registers over 25,000 certified umpires annually and is the ONLY softball association to offer complete training and bi-annual Umpire-in-Chief (UIC) clinics to help umpires achieve their goals and promote a positive experience for athletes and coaches.
- Each year, USA Softball’s Equipment Testing and Certification committee examines the current rules and specifications governing various items of equipment.
- The USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla. has served as host of the NCAA Women’s College World Series more than any other site.
- USA Softball has a national partnership with Special Olympics Softball and assists with the National Games each and every year. USA Softball umpires volunteer their time and efforts and USA Softball donates thousands of scorebooks to teams across the nation to help their programs grow. Several Special Olympic Associations have teamed up with state/metro associations in providing venues and services to grow the Special Olympics’ softball efforts
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
USA Softball, formerly the Amateur Softball Association (ASA), is a volunteer driven, not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1933. Since its inception, the organization has evolved into the strongest softball organization in the country with a network of associations spread across all 50 states – encompassing a membership of nearly one million players, coaches and umpires while also fielding six National Teams for international competition.
The growth and development of the organization led the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) to name ASA/USA Softball the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States, pursuant to the Amateur Sports Act of 1978. As the NGB, USA Softball is responsible for regulating competition across the U.S. to insure fairness and equal opportunity to the millions of players who play the sport, while also being the only organization with the opportunity to field an Olympic softball team.
Formerly known as the ASA, the organization underwent a rebrand to USA Softball in 2016 in effort of better reflecting the legacy that the organization had established as the leader in the sport.
The USA Softball National Office staff also oversee the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex, also known as The Softball Capital of the World®. With four fields and other world class amenities, the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex has played host to the best softball competition in the world, including U.S. National Teams that represent the nation in international competitions.
USA Softball is headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla. adjacent to the National Softball Hall of Fame & Museum and the four-field Hall of Fame Complex.
2801 NE 50th Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73111
Through its network of state/metro associations, USA Softball provides online registrations for teams, leagues and umpires. Most state/metro associations use RegisterUSASoftball.com to process individual registrations will have specific, detailed instructions posted on their website to guide their members through the registration process.
NOTE: Some associations do not allow online registrations but will provide instructions on how to register your team or league. To find out more information on how you can register to become a member of USA Softball, please use the Association Search to find contact information for your Local Association Commissioner.
Costs are determined locally, and vary with each Local Association. To find out more information on costs for registration, please use the Association Search to find contact information for your Local Association Commissioner.
While the National Office does not recommend or provide assistance with finding a local team or league to play on, contact your state/metro association as they may have resources for what is available in your area for your desired competition level.
Please use the Association Search to find contact information for your Local Association Commissioner.
USA Softball’s umpire program is among the nation’s largest officiating organizations with over 25,000 officials actively involved each year. USA Softball umpires are nationally recognized as the best trained and most proficient in the sport. USA Softball umpires are involved in officiating competition such as league play, city, state and National Championships. With experience and the required qualifications, USA Softball umpires could officiate events such as World Cups, Pan American Games and Olympic competitions.
Becoming a USA Softball umpire is something that you must start at the local level. For information, contact your local Umpire-in-Chief by using the Association Search.
USA Softball has an extensive list of tournaments on TournamentUSASoftball.com. A number of associations also publish tournament listings on their association website.
For more information, contact your Local Association by using the Association Search.
According to USA Softball Code, Article 314 H, all teams are eligible to qualify for the USA Softball Class A Fast Pitch National Championship Finals through their state/metro association. To find out how your team can qualify for a USA Softball National Championship Final, please contact your Local Association Commissioner or Junior Olympic (JO) Commissioner by using the Association Search.
The USA Softball National Office requires that at least one Junior Olympic (JO) coach present in the dugout during Championship play must have completed the ACE (Aspire, Challenge, Encourage) Coach Education Program. Additionally, all JO team non-player members over the age of 18 that are in the dugout and/or on the field of play must have passed a USA Softball background check. State/metro associations may require additional requirements for JO coaches.
All ACE coaches must first take the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s SafeSport courses prior to starting ACE. SafeSport is composed of three individual lessons, and all lessons must be completed in full before you are considered SafeSport educated. Please note that additional refresher courses will be required upon renewal. If you would like to know more about the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s SafeSport initiative, please click here.
Contact your state/metro Commissioner for the most accurate information regarding JO coaching requirements in your area. You can use the Association Search above to find contact information for your state/metro Association.
For the most up to date information on Certified Equipment, including approved bats and balls for Championship Play, please refer to the Equipment page on the USA Softball website. Items must be listed on our Certified Equipment to be used in USA Softball Championship Play.
Please remember that any and all equipment may be subject to testing before and/or during an event and could be ruled invalid for use, even if it is a certified bat. A mark of certification is not guaranteed if that piece of equipment has been altered in any way or has deteriorated over time.
Should you have concerns with equipment testing, contact the Umpire-In-Chief of the event as soon as possible.
The “Official Rules of Softball”, the participant manual that governs USA Softball Championship Play, is a benefit of membership. A current, free and downloadable copy — along with participant manuals from previous years — can be found here. For information on receiving a hardcopy participant manual, contact your Local Association Commissioner by using the Association Search.
USA Softball has six different National Teams Programs that compete in various international competitions each year – Women’s National Team, Men’s National Fast Pitch Team, Junior Women’s National Team, Junior Men’s National Fast Pitch Team, Men’s Slow Pitch National and Futures Team and Women’s Slow Pitch National and Futures Team. These National Teams can compete at various World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) World Championships once every two years in addition to Border Battle, Pan American Games and Olympic Games. To learn more about the WBSC, visit http://www.wbsc.org/.
There are two committees that select players to compete on USA Softball National Teams – Men’s National Team Selection Committee and Women’s National Team Selection Committee. These committees work tirelessly throughout the year scouting events across the country in search of the top athletes for national team selection. Committee members can be found at USA Softball tournaments, USA Softball Nationals, NCAA tournaments, the NCAA Women’s College World Series and many other events.
Once committee members identify potential National Team players, those individuals are invited to participate in Selection Trials where they have the opportunity to be selected to represent the United States in international competitions.
The best way to be noticed by members of the selection committees is to compete in high level USA Softball tournaments and USA Softball National Championships if you are not currently playing at the collegiate level.
USA Softball merchandise can be purchased by visiting USASoftballStore.com — the official USA Softball merchandise website. Proceeds from purchases of USA Softball merchandise go directly back to the USA Softball program.
Umpires can find Official Gear by visiting OfficialGear.com — the umpire’s one-stop shop!
If you are interested in becoming a USA Softball sponsor or National Team supplier, please contact Dre McKee, Director of Marketing for USA Softball, at (405) 425-3463 or firstname.lastname@example.org.