It’s about time to end the time limits

Over the weekend the Mundelein Thunder 16U team I coached played in an NSA World Series qualifier. The rules for the tournament stated that no new inning could start after one hour and fifteen minutes. Not just in pool play but in bracket play too.

That is just insane. The time elapsed to play one fastpitch softball game from beginning to end was less than that for a youth soccer, hockey, or basketball game. That’s just not right. All of those sports by nature have a clock, with natural breaks (quarters or halves) to reset strategy and make substitutions. They’re oriented toward a clock, and cutting out a little time per period doesn’t have a huge impact on the game.

Putting a clock on softball does. After all, as George Carlin says, it’s a pastoral sport played in a park. Or as Yogi Berra said, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. When you put a time limit on softball, especially one as short as 75 minutes, you have changed the essential nature of the game.

If you are dedicated to giving your players the opportunity to play (as I am), rather than the opportunity to watch their friends win trophies, a 75 minute time limit is particularly tough to deal with. You have to be ready to make substitutions around the 35 minute mark. Not so bad if you’re the home team. But if you’re the visitors and want to sub when you go on defense, some kids aren’t going to play very much. I find that managing the time is far more stressful than managing the game.

But even if you’re not trying to squeeze in all your players it can still be rough. Some teams, for whatever reason, take a little while to get going. By they time they’re hitting on all cylinders the game is over or nearly so. They never get a chance to establish their rhythm, wear down their opponents, or get the feel of the game. It’s wham, bam, thank you ma’am, clear the dugouts so the next team can get in. It definitely favors the team with the biggest, strongest pitcher since hitters sometimes need a couple of at bats before they can zone in on the pitcher. Hey, it took Arizona three full games to figure out Monica Abbott.

This is a phenomenon peculiar to summer ball. High school games can (and sometimes do) go on forever, as two worthy opponents slug it out. College games are the same, as is youth league play.

It’s tempting to say the time limit is driven by greedy tournament directors trying to squeeze 10 lbs. of teams in a 5 lb. facility. But that’s not necessarily true, at least in the majority of cases. What it probably points to more is a lack of adequate facilities to host these summer tournaments.

Not sure what the answer is, but after experiencing it this weekend I think all tournament directors should be required to post what the time limits will be where they have the entry information. That way coaches can at least make an informed decision BEFORE they’ve committed their teams and their budgets. As a postscipt, I once took a team to a tournament where the 1:15 time limit was cut to an hour because of rain the day before. Needless to say I’ve never gone back there.

At the high school level and above, two solid teams can complete a game in 1:30 to 1:45. If you have to have a time limit, use one of those. An hour and fifteen minutes doesn’t serve anyone well.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on June 13, 2007, in Coaching, General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. We played in one this weekend that had a 1 hour time limit in pool play, regardless of who was batting (i.e. home or visitors). Actually in this case you were better off batting first. You stood to gain more swings at the plate that way. In bracket play it was no new inning after 1:15 minutes. I did not see 1 game go the full 7 innings.

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  2. I’m gonna state that I think the limits should be dependent upon the age of the girls. Any way you look at it, 1 hr drop-dead is just nuts. I also dislike the drop-dead rule – tempts some coaches to teach the wrong things to their girls. I hr is way too short and not fair to the girls. We just played 1:30 no new inning for my 10U girls. I felt is was about right. I think 10U girls just don’t have the stamina and focus of games much longer than that. We got 5-6 innings in for each game. We are also the A level so had, and experienced, better pitching to make things go faster. Had they been walking duels, then the games would have been brutal (what I experienced the past couple of years). I like 1:15 for level B and lower levels at 10U. I liked 1:30 for 10U A level. I can’t speak for the older girls but would imagine the games should get longer each age level. The organizers who scheduled one hour drop dead limits should be ashamed – take less teams, get more fields, do whatever it takes to make these games about playing games and not about making a name for the tournament by bringing in more teams.

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  3. Wow, Robbie, that is awful. You can barely get the game going and it’s over. Taking visitors makes sense as a strategy, though. We played with a 1:40 time limit this past weekend. All our games were completed in that amount of time. It’s a lot more realistic if you have to have a time limit.

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  4. I failed to mention that this was a 14U to. Most all girls in 14U and older are High School Softball players. High School play’s 7 innings with no time limit. I can see a 1hr 30min limit, with international tiebreaker rules. After all they did play High School rules in the tournament. But, as I’ve said before. . . it’s all about making “Money” “Money” and “Mo Money”.By the way. . . our girls placed 2nd. Not bad for the first tournament of the travel season for us.

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  5. Rich Youngman

    It’s all about money folks. You need to have time limits on games in order to keep the tournament on schedule. It’s just not practical to not have a time limit. Now you could extend the time limit to ensure that most games get the full seven innings in but then this would decrease the number of games you could get in during a given time period. This in turn would cause the tournament directors to make decisions they don’t want to make, They have to decrease the number of games. Either decrease the number of game gaurantee which decreases the interest and dollar value of the tournament, or decrease the number of teams you let in. Either one decreases the revenue for the tournament director. Our girls played in a tournament this past weekend and one of the games in bracket play went 5 extra innings after the time expired and forced the beginning of international tie-breakers. That game caused a ripple affect that pushed the championship and 3rd/4th place games back to a start time of 9:15p. As you can guess, our girls picked a fine time to get hot and we finished up play at 10:30p in Oswego and didn’t get home until after midnight. Now I’ll tell you straight up that I am not an advocate of timed games in softball, it goes against the very heart and soul of the game, but at 11:30p that Sunday night as I was driving down 294 I sure had a different appreciation for it’s place in tournament play. If we all just weren’t so damn greedy.

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