Women's Program Clarifications

by Bobby Graham 20. January 2015 15:22

Okay, Ladies, let me try to clarify some of the confusion around the rules changes concerning the SPA Women’s program.

First of all, the exemption from the rules concerning qualification to World tournament play has been removed.  This means yes, teams must now qualify in order to advance to the World Tournaments.  Along with this qualification comes the necessity for the most miss-understood thing of all “frozen rosters.”  So let’s talk about what that really means and try to make sense of it as best we can.

Women’s teams this year in SPA will be divided into at least two classifications, AAA and Major.  In order for these classifications to have meaning and to keep that meaning as we move through the year, as I said in my previous article, rosters must be “frozen”.  That does NOT mean that there is no way that a player can play on more than one team.  The term frozen only applies to play within an age group.  So for example, if a player plays and is frozen on a 55+ AAA team, that player is still free and perfectly legal to play with a 50+ AAA team, in different tournaments on different weekends.  In fact any number of players could be on both teams and still be legal.  In fact, if the two teams were to play in the same tournament on the same weekend, two of the players could use the “double-rostering” rule to play on both teams, and any additional players that happen to be on both rosters, would simply choose which team that they are playing with in that tournament (doesn’t matter which team), “sign-in”, and play with only that team for the weekend.  There is no need for anybody to be removed from either roster that weekend, as only those that “sign-in” on both rosters that weekend are at issue.

The only other example that I can think of that might get sticky would be if the two teams were not of the same classification.  For Example, if a player or players were playing on both a 55+ Major team and a 50+ AAA team.  In this case there are restrictions on how many players from a “Major” roster are allowed on a “AAA” team, even though they are of different ages.  No team is allowed more than 3 players from the next higher classification to be on their roster, so playing in multiple classifications does have restrictions.  Also, no player on a 50+ Major team, would be allowed to play on a 55+ AAA team.  The thinking being that a player good enough for a younger Major team, should not be playing with an older AAA team. We usually say that “the water must run down hill so to speak.”

One other point of confusion that we need to discuss has to do with the mixture of team classes within a tournament.  I would really like to be able to tell you that this doesn’t happen, but we all know that sometimes it just isn’t practical to conduct a tournament for very small numbers of teams.  I can say that whenever there are sufficient numbers of teams available, it is definitely SPA policy to keep the classifications separated.   Are there times when circumstances may force teams of different classifications to play one another?  Sadly yes there may be.   SPA will work diligently to prevent this from happening, but when it does, we have changed our “Equalizer” rules to try to make it more fair for everybody.

This year when teams of different ages OR classifications play, extra points will be scored for either the older or the lower classified team.  That award will be 1 run in the 1st, one run in the 2nd, one run in the 3rd, and 2 runs in the 4th inning.  So if the game makes it through the 4th inning, the equalizer award will be 5 runs total.  By the way no team will get more than 5 “equalizer” runs in a game.  No longer is the “extra infielder” used as an equalizer in SPA.

I truly hope that my rambling here is helpful, and look forward to seeing you all somewhere at the ball park this year.


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Oh No, My Roster’s Been Frozen! …. What Now?

by Bobby Graham 16. January 2015 12:04

 The question is asked again and again at softball events everywhere, and the answers may not be the same depending upon the sanctioning organization rules for any particular tournament.  So let’s talk about SPA’s rules, what they mean, and why they might be the way that they are.

 Why do we have such rules?

 When softball players or athletes in general come to the park to compete, it’s just human nature that everybody wants a chance to be competitive or at least a glimmer of hope that they might win.  For that reason, most softball organizations, SPA included, try to “classify” the teams, such that similar skill levels wind up competing together.  Let’s face it nobody (win or lose) enjoys the “run-away” games that wind up forty to nothing embarrassments.  So teams are grouped and classified to try to give everybody a sporting chance.

 Classifying teams is a difficult task at best, when one considers that these teams are traveling and playing all around the country, sometimes with one organization and sometimes with another.  The task of evaluating and classifying teams becomes almost impossible, when the teams show up with different players at every tournament.  Let’s face it there are too many teams out there that will “load-up” with new and better players at every opportunity.  While we all understand that it is a necessity for teams to occasionally replace players, constant wholesale change just to “sandbag” and build a team that is stronger than its classification is wrong, and destroys any chance of proper classification for that team as the season progresses.

 To make classification meaningful in both its men’s and women’s programs, SPA has chosen to “freeze” each team’s roster, when that team plays its first tournament of the year.  In other words, when a team “qualifies” for the World Tournament by playing in any SPA tournament, that team’s roster is going to be held to rules designed to maintain the team’s classification.

 What does “frozen” mean? Are we stuck?

 Does this mean that I can’t play anywhere else?

 There is a great deal of misunderstanding as to what a “frozen roster” really is in SPA, so let’s see if we can answer some of the concerns.  First of all, a player is NOT stuck on a roster once it has been “frozen”.  SPA has no restrictions on players being dropped from a qualified roster, except to say that once dropped a player may not return to that same qualified team.  No releases or approvals are required. So if a player wants to leave their team to join another team, he/she may certainly do so, as long as he/she is eligible to be added to their new team’s roster.  Likewise, it is legal in SPA for a player to be on more than one roster and play with more than one team, as long as those rosters are for different age groups. There are special rules concerning “double-rostering” that allow for playing on two teams in the same tournament with restrictions, but as long as a player is playing with another age group on separate weekends, then there is no problem or restriction.

  What if a player is sick or injured? Are we just out of luck?

 Once a team’s roster has been “frozen”, everybody understands that there will be times when illness, injury, or unforeseen circumstances will require an additional player.  To try to accommodate these needs, SPA allows any team to add 2 players to its “qualified” (frozen) roster, but to try to keep the classification issues in line they require that these players come from a higher age division.  This way a team can still keep their qualification to World, continue to compete, and yet still remain within their current classification rating.

 Is there any way that a roster can be “Unfrozen” so that we can start over?

 Sure, we all know that a situation may arise that forces a team to have to totally regroup and just start over.  Whatever the circumstance that might cause this to happen, because now we are dealing with groups of new players from the same age group, it necessitates the need for a brand new evaluation of that team’s classification rating.  For that reason, SPA requires a team that needs to be “unfrozen” to officially register that need, so that the roster can be opened and the classification review process can begin anew for that team.  In line with this review, the team is required to “re-qualify” for the World tournament by playing in an additional SPA event.  This re-qualification gives the classification committee an opportunity to evaluate the newly formed team in a game situation.

 We all wish that this was an ideal world, where every team is competitive and the old “you get yours and we’ll get ours” mentality could work, but that’s just not the world that we live in.  The rules that SPA has put in place represent a very honest attempt to make the game more enjoyable for all.



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General | Tournaments | Women

About the Editor

Ho Hoffman of Wadsworth,Ohio is a sports writer for the Medina (Ohio) Gazette daily newspaper. Hoffman also has been playing competitive softball for nearly sixty years and 3,000 games starting in the adult fast pitch leagues as a teenager and continuing through into today's 70's senior division.  

Hoffman for the past twenty years has also been playing on senior softball travel teams. In addition, he along with Red Bole are the tournament directors of the highly successful SPA Ohio Buckeye Classic June senior softball tournament which last year drew 77 teams, in the 50, 55, 60, 65, 70 and 75 AA and AAA only divisions. 

He is also married. He and his wife Sue have three sons who are also active in softball and baseball. The youngest Matt plays adult slo-pitch softball, Mike plays Roy Hobbs 40-and over baseball and Marc is the founder, owner and president of U.S. Baseball Academy, the nation's largest baseball training program.


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