CONYERS — Just because softball is currently being played at middle and high schools, that does not mean that softball season is over for those too young to participate at that level.
The Rockdale Girls Softball Association (RGSA) is thriving as it had more than 250 players last fall with seven teams in the 14-U division alone. Even though those numbers are less than the spring’s, the association hopes to exceed that mark this season.
“Our fall season is more of an educational season that we provide, considering that during the fall you have your middle school and high school season,” Eric Cox, a RGSA travel coach, said. “The past few falls have been pretty good, we had five 14-U teams last season.”
Making RGSA such a big draw is the fact that neither Newton County or Walton County’s recreation departments have fall leagues.
“I know several Newton County coaches that bring their teams here for fall ball, especially when you’re dealing with 10-U because there isn’t a school ball they can play,” Cox said.
Cox is looking to have at least 15 teams, with three or four teams in the 6-U and 8-U divisions, even though they have exceeded that mark the past few years.
“I would like to see us in the 15-plus range,” Cox said. “We had more than that last year, but I’d like to see at least that many.”
With fewer teams in the fall, the coaches are able to spend more time with the players, making the season more of a teaching period.
“We do educational time and teach the girls to help them build up to possibly play at middle school level next year or high school level,” Cox said. “We also do free clinics for the coaches and the players through the travel ball teams where some of the more experienced coaches are. It’s a hand-in-hand rec department and travel ball teams working together.”
When Cox started as a coach four years ago, fall ball was not as popular as it is today. He said that they had to combine several of the younger groups so they could have more than two teams playing each other. However, that is not a problem anymore, as there were more than enough teams last year. As a matter of fact, they even had teams of players as young as to 3- and 4-year-olds.
“Our 3- and 4-year-old (group) is the only coed league we have,” Cox said. “It’s T-ball and we don’t do have umpires or anything like that; it’s just for fun. They go out there and have a blast. As long as they’re 3 years old by registration, they’re good to go. In the past four years we’ve seen a pretty significant amount of growth. We continue to grow at a rate of 25 percent every season.”
In addition to the recreation teams, RGSA also has nine travel ball teams under their umbrella. RGSA is also looking into different programs to help develop pitchers starting at the 10-U division.
Although girls can play softball through the 18-under division, reaching the age when they can no longer play does not mean that RGSA is finished with them.
“We try to bring them back to coach once they’re not able to play travel ball or school ball. If they’re not going on to college to play, it leaves an opening,” Cox said. “We try to keep our girls involved. Any time we can get good coaches out there, we absolutely want them.”
Registration for the fall season is open until Sept. 3. After the registration period, all players will be brought in for tryouts. While no player is cut from the RGSA program, the tryouts are used for evaluation more than anything else.
“Since we do this as a learning season, we try to see which player is the best fit for each coach,” Cox said.
RGSA is doing registration online through a new system called activesports. For more information on RGSA, or to register, go to www.rockdalegirlssoftball.org.
“It’s really, really user friendly. We just started using it,” Cox said of the activesports system. “We’re taking registration until Sept. 3 because that’s when we do tryouts.”