U16 National Championships Wrap-Up!

Published Fri 12 Jan 2024

From 2nd to 7th January, Melbourne's Waverley Softball Association hosted the annual U16 National Championships, where eleven teams, buoyed by unwavering family support, converged for a softball spectacle. Over six intense days, a total of 68 games unfolded, marking another thrilling chapter in youth softball. Organising an event of this magnitude is a feat in itself. Let's delve into the behind-the-scenes efforts that made the U16 National Championships an unforgettable experience.

In the buildup to the event, the host venue's committee and grounds crew dedicated countless hours to elevate the diamonds to national standards, meticulously planning for all weather conditions and ensuring enough volunteers to manage quick turnover between games. A fast fact: a minimum of 12 people were required to tackle tasks ranging from diamond cleanup to filling 38L water tubs – a two-person job! Consideration extended to providing officials, including statisticians and umpires, with appropriate spaces for their essential roles.

Catering for the event involved extensive planning and stocking of the canteen. Tireless volunteers operated daily for up to 14 hours, ensuring the tournament's participants & spectators remained well-nourished throughout the intense competition.

A total of 19 umpires, hailing from across the nation and with varying accreditation levels, lent their expertise to the U16 National Championship. Coordinating three simultaneous games for most of the tournament required three umpires and a supervising umpire at each diamond; that's twelve umpires in action during most timeslots, which ran from 9 am to 10 pm on a few of the days. The management and rotation of umpires needs to be carefully considered to ensure they are well rested before officiating a game and this is a primary consideration when completing allocations. While not ideal, an umpire may be assigned to a 'plate' then a ‘base’ or back-to-back ‘base’ role but then must rest before umpiring again. Remembering that fixtures can change due to circumstances such as extreme weather conditions, Victoria’s Director of Umpiring Trevor Murphy reported that the Tournament Chief Umpire Darrell Shephard and the Umpire management team (of which Trevor was one) were up each night after the day play reviewing and planning allocations for the following day, and after day 2 the management crew were redoing the umpire roster for day 3 until after 1 am. As mentioned above, with 68 games during the tournament, that’s a lot of balls and strikes, and out or safe calls over 6 days. The allocations take careful consideration to ensure optimum performance from all.   

Softball is well-known for being big on statistics, as was evident in the championship. Each team had its scorer (statistician), complemented by 23 Victorian statisticians representing Softball Australia, capturing every play of each game. Positioned behind home plate, three 'official statisticians' (paper, electronic and the third set of eyes who also run changes to the team scorers) meticulously recorded detailed information about every play.

Mary Walkinshaw, Softball Victoria's Director of Scoring and Chair of Victoria's Scoring Committee, spearheads the state's education programs. Mary commended the quality of scorers in Victoria, emphasising the availability of leveled scorers for such prestigious events. National Championships like U16 served as a platform for individuals working towards or attaining further accreditations under the seasoned guidance of Mary, who holds a Level 5 accreditation. 

Zoë Carolan was the Co-Tournament Chief Statistician alongside Mary for these Championships. Her timetabling skills were very well utilised, as with rain delays and part-time staff, six versions of the roster were produced as paper scorers required the following game off to do the statistics for the game. The technology scorer only has to confirm some final details, press a few buttons and they are ready for the next game! A perfect performance by Zoë during this tournament means she has started her journey towards Level 5 accreditation. 

Beyond the scoresheets, Andrea Mansfield and Fiona Mills were Team Manager Liaisons, who were the central point of contact and coordinated with all states to manage lunches, dinners, meetings and changes to the draw, of which there were many. 

Two National Selectors scouted for talent throughout the tournament, seeking promising athletes for Australia's future. 

The Tournament Director Grant Rice and Tournament Convenor, Danielle Rigg, navigated myriad challenges, from enforcing the 'no filming zones' rule to reshuffling an entire tournament fixture due to rain. Their efforts were complemented by Vic State Operations Manager Justin Zelones, who significantly contributed to the event's resounding success.

Let's not forget the more forward-facing roles of coaches, team managers, statisticians, players, and parents—all deserving of recognition. For months, teams underwent rigorous training and preparation, demanding a monumental commitment from everyone involved. Congratulations and heartfelt thanks for the dedication demonstrated by all.

To everyone in the Victorian Softball community, well done! We trust that everyone involved had an incredible experience, forging lasting memories. Special gratitude to the volunteers whose selfless contributions were integral to ensuring the U16 National Championships at Waverley were a resounding success.

We eagerly anticipate U23 Men's National Championships at Hume at the end of the month, which will witness yet another spectacular display of camaraderie and sportsmanship.

Cheers to the spirit of softball!