The National Softball Association has deep roots in Delaware. It offers girls as young as 7 the opportunity to play softball at a high level of competition, and the results speak for themselves.
Every spring season, eight to 10 teams scrap in a free-for-all for the Henlopen Conference and the state championship, and the NSA plays a huge part in their success.
“It’s something you got to do,” Delaware Diamonds White 12U head coach Andy Givens said. “Take Sussex Central’s high school team — I think every one of those girls plays travel ball.”
Sussex Central fell just short to Caravel for this year’s state championship, but it’s clear that participating in NSA helped them achieve their success.
A number of area high school seniors will play collegiate softball. But before they get to that point, they have to start at the beginning. June 24-26 in Salisbury, Md., a couple dozen regional teams, including Given’s 12U team, will compete in the Delmarva Qualifier.
“It’s unbelievable when you think how dedicated these 10- and 12-year-old girls are playing softball,” Givens said. “They play softball pretty much all year ’round. They practice twice a week in the winter, take hitting and pitching lessons and also have their own personal workouts. I have people practicing at my house seven days a week.”
“We’ll take off about a month before holding tryouts for the Nationals at Myrtle Beach but pretty much it’s 95 percent or nothing. There’s little down time. A lot of times they’re eating, hot, tired and dirty, while they’re waiting for the next game, Givens continued.”
So much time and effort goes into travel ball that it leaves very little time for a social life.
“Your social life or vacation time becomes going to Myrtle Beach or going to Salisbury,” he said.
Travel ball allows the girls to play anywhere from 40 to 70 games per season and, according to Delaware Magic tournament director Keith Culver, “by the time they get to high school they are very good.”
Indian River alumni and current Del Tech players Ravin Robinson and Jessica Spencer spent their formative years playing softball year-round through travel ball.
In addition to coaching his daughter’s travel team, Givens also coaches the Del Tech Roadrunners softball team. He was formerly an assistant coach with the Del Tech baseball team, until he began coaching his daughter before making the switch to softball. Now he can coach his daughter and has a fantastic opportunity to recruit players to play college ball.
“Travel ball and the Carpenter Cup is where I go to pull players (for Del Tech),” Givens said. “All but two girls on my Del Tech softball team played travel ball.”
Each year, Givens can offer up to 24 scholarships for full tuition.
“Travel ball can take these girls wherever they want to go,” Givens said.
In addition to the 10U and 12U weekend tournament in Salisbury, the rest of the Magic organization is also staying busy.
Their 14U team will play in Hershey, Pa., and the 18U heads down to Virginia Beach.