Age Categories Set for Softball at the 2021 Canada Summer Games

Age Categories Set for Softball at the 2021 Canada Summer Games

28 November 2018 Gilles LeBlanc

Ottawa, Ont. – After gathering research information from athletes and coaches and consulting with its Long-Term Player Development (LTPD) committee and Provincial/Territorial Softball Associations as well as the Canada Games Council, Softball Canada has officially established the age categories for Men’s and Women’s Softball competitions at the 2021 Canada Summer Games in Niagara, Ont.

In setting the age categories for the Canada Summer Games, Softball Canada also needed to account for the Federal - Provincial/Territorial Government Sport Committee’s (FPTSC) Small Jurisdiction Strategy, which among other things, calls for team sports at the Canada Games to allow for overage athletes from Prince Edward Island, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon. In completing its review of this strategy while using its definition of meaningful competition, Softball Canada determined that other provinces should also benefit from overage athletes to ensure maximum participation and a higher level of meaningful competition at the Canada Games.

The following definition of Meaningful Competition was developed and used by Softball Canada’s LTPD Committee and approved by Sport for Life (S4L) experts: A game where the score is 6 runs or less in run differential between the teams in at least 5 innings is meaningful.

MEN’S SOFTBALL

Following the successful return of Men’s Softball at the 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg, the age category will remain at the U21 age level as of December 31st, 2020 (birth year of 2000 or later). After receiving a recommendation from its LTPD Committee and consulting with the Provincial/Territorial Softball Associations, Softball Canada has approved overage athletes for the provinces and territories listed below:

AGE CATEGORY

  • Under 21 as of December 31, 2020
  • Year of birth: 2000 or later
  • AB, MB, NB: Eligible to select up to two (2) U22 players (YOB 1999)
  • NT, NU, PE, YT: Eligible to select up to three (3) U22 players (YOB 1999) 

Softball Canada’s research shows that the current U21 age category is well-suited for Men’s Softball at the Canada Games for the following reasons:

  1. Large pool of athletes in the U19 and U23 Softball Canada age categories.
  2. Athlete development opportunities ease the transition to the (Senior) Men’s age category.
  3. No competing development opportunities in the U21 age group –World Championships are now at the U18 and U23 age categories, and there are no postsecondary sport opportunities for Men’s Softball.

The average age male athletes join the (Senior) Men’s National Team is 27 years old. The Softball Canada age category was U21 for the last several years (changed to U23 in 2018), and the jump to the (Senior) Men’s age category is very big. The level of training, development and competition through the Canada Games program has helped prepare athletes better for making that jump.

The athlete development pathway to the (Senior) National Team goes through the Junior Men’s National Team program, the Canada Summer Games and the Canadian Championships. Talent identification for these key development opportunities takes place at the U19, U23 and (Senior) Men’s age categories.

To justify the allowance of overage athletes, Softball Canada’s research clearly showed that Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island played less meaningful competition over the last several Canada Games and their male registration numbers show that they have a smaller pool of athletes to select from.

WOMEN’S SOFTBALL

On the Women’s Softball side, based on research and feedback from participants, Softball Canada’s LTPD Committee recommended an age category change from U21 to U18 and this was strongly supported by the Provincial and Territorial Softball Associations. The age category for Women’s Softball for the 2021 Canada Summer Games has been set at U18 as of December 31st, 2020 (birth year of 2003 or later). Softball Canada has approved overage athletes for the provinces and territories listed below:

AGE  CATEGORY

  • Under 18 as of December 31, 2020
  • Year of birth: 2003 or later
  • NB, NL, NS: Eligible to select up to two (2) U19 players (YOB 2002)
  • NT, NU, PE, YT: Eligible to select up to three (3) U19 players (YOB 2002) 

Softball Canada’s research shows that the U18 age category is much better suited for Women’s Softball at the Canada Games for the following reasons:

  1. Large pool of athletes in the U16/U19 Softball Canada age categories.
  2. More year-round athlete availability for training.
  3. More development opportunities and better coaching for younger athletes.
  4. Smaller competitive gap between P/TSOs with less postsecondary athletes.
  5. More scouting opportunities for Junior National Team and postsecondary institutions.

The average age athletes join the (Senior) Women’s National Team is 20 years old. Through two cycles at the U21 age category (in 2013 and 2017), the Canada Games have not helped to identify new (Senior) National Team athletes as those athletes have already been identified much earlier in the Training to Compete stage of Softball Canada’s Long-Term Player Development model.

The athlete development pathway to the (Senior) National Team typically goes through the Canadian Championships, the Junior Women’s National Team program and the postsecondary system. Talent identification for these key development opportunities takes place at the U16 and U19 age categories.

To justify the allowance of overage athletes, Softball Canada’s research clearly showed that New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island played less meaningful competition over the last several Canada Games and their female registration numbers show that they have a smaller pool of athletes to select from.

Softball Canada strongly believes these changes to the age categories for Men’s and Women’s Softball at the Canada Summer Games are in the best interests of the sport and will help further develop athletes across the country by increasing participation and meaningful competition.