Since 1983, when the Albany Berkeley Girls Softball League was organized, two basic principles have always been stressed. The first is sound basic skill development and active participation for all girls, regardless of experience. The second is having fun, so that girls (and their families) have a good time and look forward to the practices and games. The philosophy of the League also extends to parents and adults, asking for active participation with the team and League activities as well as developing responsible spectator skills. Our hope is that all the girls will enjoy being a part of the League, working together to learn and enjoy softball, regardless of which teams win or lose any particular week. Girls who played last year are assigned to new teams with new teammates so that no team is automatically seen as the frontrunner or the cellar-dweller before the season begins. Every team is fresh and different each year, so that players new to the League should feel as welcome as veterans, and returning players will find new friends as well as having old friends who are now on opposing teams.
We believe that what makes a sport fun is playing, not sitting on the bench, and that a team which wins by playing only its best players at key positions is jeopardizing the development of all the girls. Therefore, all girls bat in turn and we have special rotation rules in recreational divisions to ensure that each girl plays often and in a variety of positions. It is a real treat to see a girl with little previous experience bursting with delight when she makes a putout at first base.
Disciplined learning of skills is basic to the program. Everyone will be taught to play the game well. Each year we have a Players' Clinic for the entire League where the practice of these basic skills is the central focus.
Older players who want to prepare for high school or more competitive softball may opt to specialize in several positions. All of our older teams compete not only intramurally but also against teams from our sister recreational softball leagues in the East Bay.
Because this is a league for girls, we think it is important for women to participate as coaches and umpires. We try to find and utilize as many women coaches and role models as we can. A girl may be inspired by watching the exciting UC Berkeley Women's Softball team or the Berkeley or Albany or other local high school teams. Many of the graduates from our league play on those teams.
While we do keep score and encourage real effort from each girl, the League tries to be more than two dozen teams battling it out on the field. We stress the importance of participation and instill the belief that while it's fun to win, it's okay to lose. The previous 23 seasons have been tremendous successes, and we believe it has been due to a philosophy that embraces every girl who wishes to play and encourages her to have a good time. We hope your whole family comes to the games and enjoys watching the girls improving their skills and having a great time together on the field.
Rules and Regulations:
For parents, siblings, pets, neighbors and friends
If you have questions for the coach(es), keep them for the next day or the next practice. Keep in mind that these volunteers are doing their best to help the girls have fun with this great game of softball.
Regarding umpires, remember that most of the umpires are young women from our local high schools, and they are doing their best at a job they are still learning. Like many human beings, they will make mistakes. However, in the ABGSL, as in life, bad calls are part of the game too, even if they seem like an outrageous miscarriage of justice at the time. In any event, ragging on the umpires is not part of the ABGSL experience. In stifling your reaction, it may help to picture your own daughter out there on the field umpiring one day with stands full of skeptical parents.
by Dick Colton
It was raining hard in mid-February on the day I saw Harlan Stelmach come around the corner and up the block towards our house. With rain spattered on his glasses I could only just make his eyes out, hunched below the rim of his umbrella. "Don't you think we should get up some softball for the girls?" he said. The rain gauge in my backyard was already going toward 30 inches with no sign of turning back. "Sure," I humored him, "Sounds like a good idea." What else are you to say to a madman in the street?
But what you don't understand, and I didn't fully know it at the time, is that Harlan's office, in the garage behind their house, is strewn with baseball memorabilia: posters, trinkets, pennants, autographed pictures and balls. The shelves are full of serious books on social ethics and psychology, but the baseball stuff hangs over it all like unpruned ivy. This man has never grown up. He has a collection of over 10,000 baseball cards in there. But does he have nine sons, one for each position? No indeed. The Lord has favored him with two fine daughters. He was destined to start a girls' softball league.
Well, the next thing I remember, Chris and I found ourselves going over to the Stelmach's one evening the next week "to talk about it." As it turned out, there were some other people there too. We talked softball for an hour or so, the conversation came easily, everybody agreed on everything. Talk is cheap, and things are always easy at this stage. We'd organize a softball league for girls. Outside it was still raining hard.
But things began to have a different tone when we found ourselves back in the Stelmachs' living room at least twice more by early March. There were more people for one thing. We had the Stelmach, Colton, Merritt, Stipovich, and Salzman families all represented, and a variety of others who came to consult and advise. Harlan began to bandy about the ominous phrase "board members." And large charts appeared in the corner of the room with terms like "Agenda" written at the top. On February 21st we met with a representative from the national Bobby Sox League to consider affiliating with them. By March 3rd we were at the Cal Women's Gym as guests of Donna Terry, women's softball coach. Faced with her enthusiasm for the sport, there was no turning back. Frank Haeg of the Berkeley Recreation Office was there, supported us warmly, and promised help in getting fields. We settled on affiliating with the ASA, Amateur Softball Association.
Events began to tumble fast. On March 9th we officially decided to go ahead with it. The headings on the chart now read "Task Assignments" and "Timetable". Jim Stipovich was to get uniforms and equipment for these mythical teams, I was lining up fields and umpires, John Merritt, Lee Bevis and Diane Wyatt were getting Sponsors and raising funds, Lois Hansen was finding coaches, Marshall Salzman was doing the finances and insurance. Harlan was doing everything. Meeting on March 16th we set our timetable. Backwards, it ran: First games on May 7th; first practice on April 25; coaches' clinic at Cal on April 20; coaches meet with team parents week of April 11; meeting to recruit coaches on April 6; assign girls to teams by April 1; girls' sign-up forms returned by March 25; sign-up forms go out to schools on March 21---oh my Lord, that's only five days from now! We hadn't a nickel in our pocket, my rain gauge was pushing 40 inches, and in less than a week hundreds of credulous girls were going to start taking us at our word.
Well, it all came to pass. Over 150 girls signed up right away, and the phones were still ringing. We broke the girls into ten teams and Lee and Diane had ten sponsors within two weeks. Coaches were still a problem: there were a number of interested people but we had to sign them up formally and give them teams, three coaches/managers per team, and mostly women, we hoped. So there was a meeting on April 6th, a scant five days before coaches were to begin contacting their team parents. Again we met at Cal, and Donna Terry, with several ASA officials, gave a pep talk. We explained our 'philosophy,' where we stood organizationally, and abruptly handed out sign-up forms. As they left we locked the door behind them and then and there assigned them to teams. They were all called within two days, given their team assignments, and asked to pick up their rosters and team packets by the weekend. We explained that everything was in capable hands - theirs.
Never was a group so brave. Almost none had ever coached before, a few still weren't sure if a softball was round or square. Over they came, smiling through the panic, and picked up their stuff. In just ten days, they had to contact 17 families each, get them to a meeting, collect registration money, and be ready to meet the girls on the field for first practice. They all succeeded.
On April 20 Donna Terry and her assistant Diane Ninemire gave a clinic for the new coaches, demonstrating many fundamentals and how they should be taught to young girls. This clinic laid the basis for much of our instructional work in the league, and gave the coaches a confident start. By the beginning of the following week, on April 25, the first practices began. Like the Music Man, we were still promising that the uniforms would be here any day. And the rain gauge finally quit at 43 inches. On Saturday, May 7 the first games took place, with 170 girls participating. Girls' softball had begun.
Parents and players in the League know the history from there on out. The coaches have done a marvelous job with all the girls and skills have improved noticeably over this first season. We've jiggled and tickled to keep things in perspective on the field, trying to temper the natural competitiveness enough to insure that all girls play, and learn to play better while having fun.
Well, that's about it. Did I forget to mention that this has been an immense pleasure for all of us involved in putting it together? You better believe it has. When 170 girls are out there cheering each other on on Saturday mornings, almost none have dropped out, and their parents are so supportive, it's a fine thing.
Harlan said to me the other day, "You know, when we started this thing I was really only thinking of getting 15 or 20 girls together for Megan and Amy to play ball with. I had no idea it would come to this."
"Sure," I humored him.