When the Northshore School District tightened its belt four years ago, junior high softball was one of the casualties of that budgetary battle.
That’s when Bothell High softball coach Rob Luckey took action. He formed a softball league called "Fall Ball" which would be played in the autumn. Its goal was to provide Northshore girls from the 7th, 8th and 9th grades a chance to get out and play softball in September and October.
"It’s a short season of about 7-8 weeks," coach and assistant organizer Kevin Martin said. "We play games one night a week and doubleheaders on Sundays. It’s just a chance for junior high girls to play softball in the fall."
In its first season, Fall Ball had five teams, then three in the second season and four in the third. Last year they didn’t play due to renovation of the playing surfaces at Bothell.
But this year the league’s back.
"We’ve gotten 28 responses so far from girls who want to play," Martin said. "Our goal is to be back up to four or five teams. Five teams would be incredible! But four would be perfect.
"There are no practices or very limited practices, depending on the coach," he said. "We’re not putting emphasis on winning and losing. This is more of getting the girls out playing. Most of these girls have seen each other out in Little League. It also gives the coaches the chance to see (what kind of talent) is coming up in the years to come (to the local high schools)."
The benefit of role models also makes the league worthwhile.
"Each team has one of Rob’s high school players on it," Martin said. "They serve as an assistant coach or a head coach. A junior high girl will look up to a high school student who plays varsity. It sets a goal for them and they start a relationship."
Martin says they encourage participation from girls who play other sports simultaneously.
"We carry 15 players on a team because we know that soccer is going on and other sports that girls are involved in during the fall. But we encourage them to play other sports. On a Sunday afternoon when we play doubleheaders, they can usually make those. So if the girls play half the games that’s great. It just gives them a chance to play some softball.
"During the summer, it’s softball only of course," Martin said. "If you’re on a team it’s pretty intense. But this is really laid back and no pressure. Everybody wants to win of course, but we’re here to have fun and compete."