Softball at ASA: How an American sport has become popular in the district of Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh
The Anantapur Sports Village (ASV) hosted the national Softball camp from 22nd to 29th October. The camp was organized for the players of the Andhra Pradesh team who will be representing their state in the upcoming Softball National Tournament in Indore, Madhya Pradesh from 1st to 3rd, November.
The camp consisted of both boys and girls from the U11 and U13 category. A total of 61 kids across the four groups were in attendance and were given the required training and development in the duration of their seven day stay at ASV. One of the biggest positive outcomes was that a total of nine players – two girls and seven boys, from the Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) were selected to represent Andhra in the National Tournament.
The Anantapur Sports Academy, operated under the Rural Development Trust, is a program that caters to 9,000 kids on a weekly basis and provides them with infrastructure, education, coaching and nutrition. Softball has grown exponentially across the entire district within the last couple of years with an increased participation from children.
What is Softball and its origins in Anantapur?
The game is nearly identical to that of Baseball with the major difference being that in Softball, the pitcher is allowed to throw underarm, with the sport being played with a larger ball on a smaller.
For any individual or newcomer, grasping the concept of the sport can be very hard and confusing, and the same happened with the children in Andhra, but once they understood it after playing it for a while, everyone started to enjoy it. The coaches have done an excellent job of simplifying and demonstrating the sport to the kids, by relating it to the terminology and similarities of cricket.
Following its introduction at ASA in 2014, Softball has proven to be an excellent platform for aspiring individuals to make it big and has helped them take the next step by representing their district, state and even the country. Many of them have represented India in Softball at the youth levels such as U13, U15, as well as the senior national team.
IMPACT OF SOFTBALL
The participation has rapidly amplified in the last four years at ASA to an incredible 815 kids– 452 girls and 363 boys till date. Teenagers such as Lavanya and Akhila represented the nation at the Asian Junior Women’s Softball Championship in the Philippines earlier this year while M. Jagadeesh, a former Softball coach at ASA, also donned India colours at the World Baseball and Softball Championship in Canada in 2017. And most recently, J. Radhika, the 21-year old Softball player who represented India at Asian University Championship in China.
Players and coaches who have had prior experience at the higher stages have been able to pass on their knowledge to the upcoming generation. “The camp has been very helpful, we have been able to improve our fundamentals skills such as batting, fielding, slugging. We feel confident heading into the tournament in Indore” said, P. Akshay Sagar, a member of the Andhra U13 squad.
Furthermore, over the years ASA has helped the children with the necessary equipment such as bats, balls, helmets, gloves and jerseys thereby enabling their ‘Right to Play’ and facilitating them with Softball as a potential career. The role played by ASA in the past has been very influential as schools and university games have taken place on a regular basis in ASV to promote the competitive spirit among the youth.
S. Obilesh, Softball coach at ASA stated, “The camp progressed really well. We have high hopes of securing a good finish in the All India Tournament. The kids have been performing really well, the game has advanced and compared to last time the players have shown a significant amount of improvement. We are certain that this camp will prove to be very advantageous when they head into the competition in Madhya Pradesh.”
Through different partnerships, Softball has found a new breed of life in the state of Andhra. The associations, governing bodies and schools together have helped maintain the popularity of the sport in the southern part of the country and have not let it fade away. Hopefully, in the coming years, Softball will become a popular sport in the Indian household and more children and youth will be motivated to take it up.