2021 Softball Registration and Team Formation FAQ
Every Little League Charter must perform an annual review and Board approval of their Local Rules. They are then reviewed and approved by the District, who then sends them to West Region for review and official filing before the start of the Spring season. It is important that umpires, managers, coaches, and even parents review the KNLL Local Rules before each season as some league rules and processes may have changed from the prior year. This FAQ section will discuss Registration and Team Formation in broad strokes and is not a substitute for the KNLL Local Rules.
Why does KNLL have to create Local Rules when Little League publishes a 200-page rulebook?
Every Little League Charter is responsible for creating their own set of Local Rules to cover details not explicitly laid out in the Little League Official Regulations, Playing Rules and Operating Policies published annually by Little League International. Operational processes and definitions such as team drafts, and Minors Division subdivisions are left for each Charter to define, providing them flexibility to determine what is best for their area or membership. Broadly speaking, no two leagues have the exact same local rules or operational policies for running their leagues.
Does Little League operate just like other local, recreational youth sports league?
No. Little League is a non-profit youth sports organization that operates internationally, with a recreational “regular season” and a highly competitive “post-season”, which at some levels conclude in international level competitions (World Series). To ensure competitive integrity at these international events, there are administrative and game play rules that must be followed at the local level to ensure post-season tournament teams (All-Stars) from that Charter are eligible for post-season play.
What are the main differences between Kirkland National Little League and other local, recreational youth sports leagues?
The three main differences are:
- Little League is driven by age and not school grade
- A player’s skill factors into which division they will play
- New teams are made every year- no “legacy teams”
Little League is driven by age because their post-season World Series events demand strict adherence to age restrictions. That means that two players in the same grade may have different Little League Ages and it is possible they would not be placed in the same division.
At certain levels, Little League requires players to attend a skills evaluation. This evaluation is used to determine the optimal division at which to place players for development and competition while also driving the player draft for those levels requiring a draft process.
Finally, Little League’s charter is to build community. We believe that the best way to build and strengthen community is to balance players playing with friends and meeting new people. Every year, we start with a clean slate for creating teams meaning, no one should expect to be on “the same team” from Tee Ball to Juniors.
What is “Little League Age”?
Little League post-season competitions are driven/restricted by age and that requires the regular season team formations adhere to consistent age determinations. For Softball, the Little League Age is the age the player was on December 31 prior to the start of the Spring Season. Players registering for the 2021 Spring Season are considered the age they were on December 31, 2020. Even if your player turns 10 on January 1, 2021, they will still be registered as Little League Age 9 for the 2021 Spring Season, 2021 All-Stars, and 2021 Fall Softball.
Why does Softball have different Age ranges for their Divisions than Baseball?
First off, Little League Age for Baseball is calculated on a different calendar than Softball. In some cases, it is because the two programs have Division misalignment. In other cases, it’s because we have tried to align our age ranges with other Charters in the District so that if or when we do participate in an Interleague season with them, we don’t have a team of all 8-year old players playing against a team of all 11-year old players from Issaquah!
Why are there differences in Division rules between KNLL’s Baseball and Softball programs?
While the Board and Rules Committee do our best to ensure consistent operational rules for both Baseball and Softball wherever we can, the reality is that the two sports have different rules, requirements, and needs due to the number of registered players. For example, Baseball registers enough players to hold games only among KNLL teams, whereas Softball must Inter-league with other local Charters. When Inter-league occurs, it is required that KNLL Softball be aligned and in agreement with the Charters we will Inter-league and not with KNLL Baseball.
Why does Softball have different Division names than Baseball?
Because Softball participates in Inter-league play with other Charters in D9, it is more important for KNLL to use the same Division names as the other Softball Charters. For example, throughout D9, Coast is used within Softball to designate the highest level of Minors Division play whereas KNLL Baseball had traditionally used AAA, although they are incorporating Coast this season.
How do the different Divisions in Baseball and Softball align?
Generally speaking, the two programs’ Divisions align in the following manner:
What is the Minors Division?
Little League recognizes only 4 Divisions in Softball (Minors, Majors, Juniors, and Seniors). Charters are given the flexibility to decide if they want to run one Minors Division or create separate subdivisions under Minors to accommodate player development needs. KNLL Softball currently runs A (coach pitch), AAA (modified coach pitch), and Coast (player pitch) under the Minors Division.
Tee Ball is considered its own separate Division by Little League and NOT a subdivision of Minors.
Who does KNLL Inter-league with?
It changes from year to year. At the lower Division levels, we have been fortunate enough to Inter-league with KALL, allowing parents to only have to drive to Everest C or Taylor Fields for games. At upper levels, the D9 Inter-league meeting takes place the around the end of February and that is when D9 approves all inter-leagues and combined teams from Tee Ball through Juniors. Note that each Division may be Inter-leagued with different charters.
When I try to register my daughter for “Division X”, it won’t let me because of her age. What should I do?
The age ranges that we have set at the various Divisions are based on one or more of the following:
- Little League rules restrictions
- District 9 coordination
- Historical knowledge of skills at different ages
If you believe that your daughter should be playing at a different Division level than what the registration is allowing, please contact our Player Agent at firstname.lastname@example.org and they will work with you on your questions and concerns.
Does my daughter have to attend the Softball Evaluation?
Unless otherwise dictated, we are asking all players Little League Age 8 and above to attend this year’s Softball Evaluation. The date, time, and location is still being determined. With COVID wiping out last season, it is important for us to evaluate players to ensure that they are at the appropriate division for their skill level. Any player who can not attend, and work with our Player Agent to schedule a make-up session otherwise, they will be placed at a level based on what information we currently have.
I registered my daughter at Majors Division. That means she’ll play at Majors this year, correct?
Possibly. All players Little League Aged 8 and above must attend our Evaluation. Based on that Evaluation and the number of teams we will form and roster spots we allot for each team will determine how many players will be placed at the Majors Division level each year.
As per Little League rules, 12-year old players must be placed at Majors regardless of skill level with rare exception. As per KNLL Local Rules, any players who played at Majors the prior year will also be placed at Majors for the current season- we don’t demote players. After the 12-year old players and last year Majors players are placed into the draft pool, the next X number of players are added to the Majors draft pool so that the draft pool is the same size as the number of players needed to fill out the number of teams. A similar process is followed for Coast, excluding the 12-year old player provision.
What is the exception for 12-year old players to not be placed at Majors?
For highly skilled 12-year old players, they may petition to play up at the Juniors Division. The player registers at Majors and fills out an Exception Request Form and sends it to the Player Agent for review. After evaluations, if the player is deemed to have the skill to compete at Juniors AND there is enough room on the Juniors roster, the player will be placed onto a Juniors team.
For newer players whose skillset might be deemed a safety risk at Majors, their evaluation must be completed in the presence of D9’s District Administrator. If the DA determines that the player presents a safety risk to themselves or others, they would then grant a waiver to have the player placed at Coast instead. The player would not be allowed to pitch at Coast nor would they be All-Star eligible. While that may seem harsh, the goal is to ensure that all players receive the proper coaching and competition level to develop and have a positive experience with Fastpitch Softball.
If my daughter is not placed on a Majors team, where would she be assigned?
Any players who are not placed into the Majors draft pool would be placed into the Coast draft pool. Then any players who were not accepted to Coast would be placed into the AAA player pool.
I am unhappy with the Division at which my daughter was placed. What are my options?
Unfortunately, not many. Softball registration numbers are low enough that for the last 10 years, we’ve had to Inter-league with four or more other charters at the Majors and Coast Divisions. As a Board, we must manage the desire of parents and players to move up to higher Divisions with the actuality of the team skill levels put on the field by other Charters with which we play. For example, at AAA, a “far end of the bell curve pitcher” is one that only “walks” one or two batters an inning. At Coast, the comparative scale pitcher throws 40-45 mph, and can strike out the side in 11 pitches. At Majors, that pitcher throws over 50 mph, has an ankle breaking change-up, and can throw a drop or rise ball as well. If we simply pushed everyone up we risk demoralizing players to the point where they won’t return.
Additionally, we want to ensure that team sizes are large enough to reduce the need for Pool Players while at the same time small enough to ensure that players get sufficient playing time to develop. This can be a difficult balancing act to achieve.
We do our best to fairly evaluate players at Evaluations and place players at a Division level where they will have the most success and development during the year. If your daughter doesn’t make a desired Division this year, it is highly likely that they will move up the next year if they commit to developing at their current level.
What are your target team sizes by Division?
We believe that the following targets for team sizes provides the best combination of ensuring games are not cancelled, players get as much playing time as they can, and a strong coach to player ratio that promotes development of players.
- Tee Ball: 6-8 players
- A: 8-10 players
- AAA: 10-12 players
- Coast: 12-13 players
- Majors 12-13 players
- Juniors 14-16 players
These are targets. Sometimes there is a need to deviate slightly from these targets for a particular season or because we have late registrations after teams are formed.
Why are some team sizes less than the number of positions on the field?
The goal is to ensure that players have a great experience with Fastpitch Softball and at lower levels, more at-bats and more inning turnover so players can play multiple positions each game is more important than having a full platoon of outfielders when only two balls are hit into the outfield all season. At Tee Ball, A, and even some extent at AAA, we would rather be short on players in the outfield than have outfielders or players on the bench getting bored.
Why is the team target size for Juniors higher than other Divisions?
KNLL deems players at Coast, Majors, and Juniors as part of our All-Star player pool. In order for Little League to consider a player as All-Star eligible, the team on which they played must have completed at least 12 games during the season and that player must have played in 60% of those games. At Juniors, it is more complicated due to Little League’s High School exemption rule. In a nutshell, players who are also on their High School softball team may be All-Star eligible at the end of the season by playing in less games than their peers. Pending the number of High School team players that have registered for the Spring season will have a bearing as to how large of a team we will field at Juniors as we need more players to ensure that we can field a minimum of 9 players at every game.
Why is Coast the lowest Division for KNLL’s All-Star player pool?
Little League’s lowest aged All-Star Division is 8/9/10 year old players. While there may be players of all those ages playing in AAA, the All-Star tournament is run by Coast rules staffed by above average Coast pitching. We believe that a player in a modified coach pitch league- used to an 11″ safety ball, restricted base-running rules, where the coach comes in to pitch to them- would be unable to compete with players who competed under those rules and conditions all season long and become discouraged with the experience.
How are teams formed at A and AAA?
Please refer to the Local Rules. In layman’s terms, we form teams by school. Because Little League Rules require us to form teams that are the same size, sometimes school groups larger than the team size must be split up and we do our best to make those splits as equitable as possible.
Can I request a specific friend to be on my daughter’s team?
At Tee Ball, A, and AAA, yes, at Coast and above, no. When you register your daughter, you may specify ONE friend request. If that other player also specifies your daughter as their ONE friend request (reciprocal request), we will do the best that we can to put them on the same team. Please note, that this may mean that your daughter is not on a team with other schoolmates, friends, or coaches that you know.
Coast, Majors, and Juniors teams are drafted for parity and therefore friend requests are not granted but may occur as a natural part of the draft process.
Can I pull together my own team and have them register together?
No. Little League’s mission statement specifies that their goal is to create future community leaders through instruction of baseball and softball. We believe that the best way to support that mission is to balance the social aspects of knowing some players on your team with meeting new players each year to make new friends. While some local recreational sports leagues allow the building of a team at 5 years old and staying together through Middle School, we believe that this runs counter to Little League’s mission and draft rules.
Can I request a specific coach for my daughter?
You can, but please realize that school enrollment, team size, and friend requests take priority over coach requests. For example, if your daughter is at Frost and your coach request is someone at Sandburg, and there are enough Sandburg kids to create one team, you would not have that coach. Coach requests are helpful to us in potentially guiding school pairings for teams (i.e. Frost + Sandburg makes one team), what to do with a lone player from a school, and how well our coaches perform during the season.
Is the Softball draft for Coast and above the same as Baseball’s?
Almost. When there are enough players at a Division level for more than one team, we perform a blind serpentine draft of pitchers first, a reverse blind serpentine draft of catchers second, and then blind serpentine draft the remaining players to build teams of parity. Because Softball is driven by pitchers and catchers at this age, and the learning curve to become a Fastpitch Softball pitcher is steep, we ensure that we create an equitable split of these two positions among the teams.