New Club Tourney Has Strong Start

By Staff

Coaching Management, 11.7, October 2003,

College recruiters had a new opportunity to see softball players in action this summer, as 56 18U and 18U-Gold teams attended the inaugural Rush to Gold National Tournament July 23-27 in Irvine, Calif. The tournament was sponsored by the newly-formed Elite Fastpitch Softball Association (EFSA), under the direction of Randy King, formerly a staff member at Southern California ASA.

King says he organized the Rush to Gold nationals at the urging of West Coast coaches. “When I resigned from the Southern California ASA, I started getting calls from coaches who said that they needed to cut down on the travel costs for their teams to compete at nationals,” he says. “The bulk of the Gold teams in the country are in California, and they typically pay $35,000-$50,000 to travel to the ASA tournament. Instead of having them travel back East to compete at a national tournament, we decided to bring one to the West Coast.”

Rush to Gold organizers produced a $5 program for college scouts listing every player’s year in high school, SAT score, GPA, and whether or not they were signed to a college team, and made admission to games free for all parents. “At the ASA nationals, parents have to pay up to $40 for the weekend to watch their kids play,” King says.

Another drawing point of the tournament was a round of pool play that had no effect on seedings during the subsequent double-elimination play.

“Every team was guaranteed three pool games, and it was a chance for college coaches to see players who don’t usually get playing time in tournament situations,” says Tyrone Davis, whose O.C. Batbusters took home the Rush to Gold trophy this summer and who serves on the EFSA’s five-member board of directors. “By contrast, when we go to the ASA nationals, there are only two pool games and they count toward the seedings in the double-elimination bracket, so you have to play them just as competitively as you do the double-elimination.”

However, some coaches have questioned the need for another tournament, especially since most teams ended up attending both the ASA and EFSA tourneys. “With teams attending both national tournaments, I worry about burnout,” says Margie Wright, Head Coach at Fresno State University. “Watching players in these summer tournaments, it’s obvious that they are dead tired, and they’re not playing at their potential. There is a limit to how many times in a row you can compete at that intensity.”

Providing college recruiters with an additional summer scouting opportunity is also a mixed blessing, Wright says. “We’re limited to a 50-day recruiting calendar, and we’re already inundated in the summer,” she says. “It is getting to the point where we will have to give up days of seeing players in the winter if we want to go to all these tournaments.”

Future plans for the Rush to Gold Tournament include drawing teams from other areas of the country. “We had teams from Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Georgia, and Washington this year, and I think that we’ll see more next year,” King says. “I’d like to see this tournament get as big as ASA’s, and I think it can.”