A handful of changes, ranging from an overhaulof the league website to new board members this season have set the tone for Sparks Fastpitch Softball moving forward into future seasons.
“We’re just trying to build a stronger brand I guess you could say,” SFSA President Raylene Roach said. “We changed so much. I mean, it’s like what didn’t we change? The league’s had a lot of fallout and the numbers have dropped every year so we’re trying to get the right people in and the right coaches in so we can rebuild again. I thought it went very well this season. We interleagued with Reno this year on the weekends within all of our age divisions and that went really well. I think we raised the level of coaching this year a little bit too. We’re kind of raising the level of competitiveness within our league and that definitely showed this year.”
Part of the successful turnaround for the league was the intensified vetting of coaches.
“We did a little more screening with the coaches this year. Some of it basically was just talking to the coaches to figure out where they’re at as far as softball and their coaching style is considered,” SFSA Vice President James Cox said. “Some coaches take it to a different level where it’s no longer about the girls. We don’t want that. We want to get to a point where our coaches are actually developing our players, where this league is competitive and not just like rec ball.”
With a new standard in the dugouts in place, the hope for Sparks Fastpitch is that the level of play will increase as well.
“We could still do a better job, but I think we need to rebuild the league as a whole first and then I think we’ll attract better coaches and more girls. We just really had to lay the foundation this year,” Roach said. “More important than anything, we’ve partnered with all the key softball players per say in town to build a better league and just get more experience than just the dads that come out and coach their daughters.
“We’re making it all about the girls again and really raising the awareness around softball and building better softball players in our community. Every girl that has went on to play in high school, college, whatever it may be, they started within this league. They’ve all been a part of the league at one point or another. This league has been around for a long time and it’s lost that luster for quite a while in my opinion. We’re just trying to keep it sustainable and return it to what it should be. We’re trying to make this a reputable league again.”
The other area of focus for the league’s makeover is the environment surrounding the players and games.
“We are always evolving and we are trying to improve certain areas and tighten up on certain things. The biggest thing for us is that the atmosphere is about the game and is family oriented,” Cox said. “We have great parents that come in here and support the teams and support the girls. That’s what it’s about. Not yelling at umpires because of a bad call. It’s a human element. It’s a part of the game and that’s just the way it is.
“We have that family environment. The largest thing for us is we really try to create a family atmosphere. We want fans to come out here and enjoy some time with the girls and experience what the girls are learning. We want a positive atmosphere. It’s not about the glory days for us coaches or staff members. It’s for the kids and helping them improve. That’s the thing that I like about our league.”