The Women’s College World Series for fast pitch softball was just last week and showcased players that are described as the “best of the era.” Seeing the increase in talent at the college level in this sport is a product of the growing interest among younger girls. We have similar story in Troup County with a number of competitive girls’ fast pitch softball teams being formed and helping to shape these young athletes into those future stars.
Jason Graham, Head Coach for Troup Thunder Elite, is one of those leading the efforts in Troup County. It started in the summer of 2015 with a group of about 5 girls – mostly seven year olds – that seemed excited about the sport and showed a level of commitment to want to play at a higher level. Graham saw an opportunity to bring a group of talented young girls together to better develop their skills. After playing together in a disappointing loss at the GRPA (Georgia Recreation and Park Association) State Softball Tournament in 2015, it was clear that the girls had potential and love for the sport, but if they wanted to be more competitive, they needed the right opportunities.
Graham, along with Jacob Rick and Tim Siggers, created an opportunity for these girls by forming a travel team – Troup Thunder. With proper practice and training, these girls went on to compete at higher levels in travel tournaments during 2016. Thus, when they came back to play recreational sports in 2016 and, once again, went to the GRPA State Softball Tournament – this time they won!
Continuing to advance in 2017 as a 10U team, The Troup Thunder Elite have a lot to celebrate. They have played nine travel tournaments since March. Out of those nine tournaments, they have had three 1st place finishes, two 2nd place finishes and one 3rd place finish.
When looking at the growth in the team over the last couple of years, Jason Graham firmly believes “the success of what you do is directly tied to the quality of people you have involved. We have a very strong coaching staff developing these girls. We have an amazing group of parents – you can’t have success without the parents. Without the support of the parents your athletes are not going to be committed.”
And, as for the players, all of the coaches are personally invested in their growth and development. Speaking on their behalf, Jason said “today our players are fundamentally more advanced than most girls their age. They have worked tirelessly – they do everything we ask them to do – they have grown tremendously – they have improved so much and have shown their commitment to want to be successful” Jason’s goal is not just to advance this team. He wants to help develop an interest in this sport for more girls in Troup County and help provide them with the right opportunities to reach their highest potential. Fostering the love for the sport and developing the fundamental skills is important to do as they are in their younger years.
Thus, he encourages other parents to consider this with their girls who might show an interest in softball.
Jason shared with us some of the keys to forming a girls’ softball travel team. First, you need the players that are committed and the parents to support the commitment. You can form a team of players from girls you already know and also host your own tryout session. Next, you need good coaches – these could be existing coaches for the school systems or devoted parents. Third, it is important to find somewhere to practice – you will need an indoor facility. Finally, you need to find organizations that host travel tournaments. And it is important to do your homework, because there are different types of tournaments. “Open tournaments” can present a challenge for the players if they get matched with teams that are at a different level of play. Thus, Jason recommends looking for those tournaments that classify and match up teams based on their skill level.
For those interested in joining an existing team, we are aware of the following teams in Troup County:
• Troup Thunder Elite – 10U Team
• Troup Thunder Premier – 10U Team
• Force Fastpitch – 12U Team
• Lady Rockets (Game On) – 12U Team
• Game On Fastpitch – 14U Team
• Southern Attitude – 14U Team
• GameOn Fastpitch – 16U Team If you are interested in forming your own team, Georgia Coaches Corner.com has a wealth of information on the sport and process. In addition, Jason encourages you to contact him directly with any questions about existing teams or interest in forming your own at troupthunderfastpitch@ gmail.com.
To learn more about Troup Thunder and local tournaments that Jason and his coaches are now hosting in our hometown, you can visit their facebook page at “Troup Thunder Travel Softball.”
Thank you to Jason and all of those coaches and parents in Troup County supporting girls’ fastpitch softball in our hometown!