Submitted by Janina Vanden Bos
You may have never heard of the Vanderhoof Youth Slow Pitch Society, but you probably noticed some kids running around this spring in jerseys and hats. The Youth Slow Pitch league had a great year with over 90 kids registered, up from 35 last year. Of course, last year they were still known as the Vanderhoof Youth Baseball Association. To be honest, the society is still in the works; but Janina VandenBos, president, and the rest of the board are working hard to make this vision a reality.
While there is a lot of history in the original ball association, the new society only began two years ago when Janina brought forward the idea to make the change from baseball to softball. Participation in the VYBA league had been dwindling. The board at that time was looking to grow baseball so that the Vanderhoof league could eventually meet the criteria to be recognized by Baseball BC and have inter league games in areas such as Prince George, Quesnel and other places. Meanwhile, interest in the adult softball league was also declining. When Janina stepped in as president, she felt that switching to softball in Vanderhoof would allow for mixed teams (baseball BC is not mixed teams) and would also give kids a place to go once they aged out of the Youth league but wished to continue playing ball.
There was quite a learning curve as the change took place. The first softball season started with just the president and Laura Ruiter as secretary/treasurer. There was a parent meeting where three were in attendance. The idea to change to softball was presented and the decision was made to run with it. Kris Scott joined as a member of the board. This was the catalyst that was needed as up to that point Janina was the only board member with any first hand knowledge or experience in ball.
The first season ran simply. There were 3 teams and not many games. Everyone was learning how to run a ball club. After that first season, the board agreed that even though registration wasn’t high, it was not due to the switch to softball. The kids had a good year and there were some hurdles to overcome, but that first year was counted as a success.
The board met throughout the next year planning and organizing for the next season. Erin Miller joined the board. There was more advertising done and a jamboree was held with games to showcase ball skills. Kris Scott stepped up to become the coaching coordinator. As a player in the adult league, he used his contacts and approached players there to share their passion and coach in the youth league. As a result, about 70% of the coaches this year did not have children playing in the youth league. This brought new life into the society as adults who loved the game simply shared their passion with their team. Many of these coaches attended meetings and brought input and insight to run the youth league better. The 2016 season saw two tee ball teams, one mini team, three 7-9yr old teams, and two 10+ teams. This allowed for games to happen once a week between the older teams.
With the sudden growth came the challenge of organizing field space. This is one area that will continue to be a struggle as the decline of ball in the past has led to the loss of some existing diamonds. This will be another hurdle for the Society to overcome as the district moves forward with plans to use field space for other activities. The Slow Pitch Society is up to the challenge!
With all the changes that occurred in the last two years, the board saw fit to change the name of the organization. The board learned that the league is not just softball, but specifically Slow Pitch, which is what led to the new name. There is a full board now and membership to the society is open to anyone and automatic for parents listed on the baseball registration form.
The Vanderhoof Youth Slow Pitch Society is also organizing a new event this year. Dennis Hood, owner/trainer with The Swing Doctor and a former minor league player for 14 years, will be helping to run a ball camp July 26-28 from 1pm – 3pm. Registration is limited so check out the Facebook page for more information.
The success of the 2016 Slow Pitch season is due to many individuals and businesses. While the softball season itself is short, the board works and meets regularly throughout the year. There would be no club were it not for parents who take the time to register and commit to bringing their kids to practices and games. The league exists because of players who work hard and encourage the coaches with their effort. It is the coaches who come out to meetings, games and practices that allow the teams to function. It is the many businesses whose sponsorship provides funds to outfit the teams in awesome uniforms and help cover expenses that come with running an organization like this that allow the club to operate. There were also community members who came out to enjoy a game and encouraged all just by showing interest.
If you would like to learn more about the Vanderhoof Youth Slow Pitch Society visit the Facebook page Vanderhoof Youth Softball or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Vanderhoof Youth Slow Pitch Society is looking forward to another great year!