A History of Fastpitch Softball
The first women's softball team was formed in 1895 at Chicago's West Division High School. They did not obtain a coach for competitive play until 1899 and it was difficult to create interest among fans. However, only five years later, more attention was given to the women's game. The Spalding Indoor Baseball Guide 1904 issue fueled this attention by devoting a large section of the guide to the game of women's softball.
The Chicago National Tournament in 1933 also advanced the sport. At this competition, the male and female champions were honored equally. The International Softball World Championships in 1965 developed women's softball by making it an international game, a step towards the Pan-American Games and the Olympics. Eleven years later, women softball players were given the closest equivalent to Major League Baseball with the 1976 formation of the International Women's Professional Softball League. Player contracts ranged from $1,000 to $3,000 per year, but the league disbanded in 1980 because of financial ruin.
The popularity of women's fastpitch softball has grown steadily since the professional league's end in 1980. In fact, once again, there is another professional fastpitch league In 1982, the National Collegiate Athletic Association began holding women's softball championships. This championship tournament is now called the Softball World Series. UCLA has dominated the competition and won the title 11 times. Softball is one of only 2 sports in the NCAA exclusive to women -- the other is Field Hockey. More than 25 million people in the United States of all age groups now actively play the game.
In 1996, women's fastpitch softball reached the pinnacle of sports when it became an Olympic medal event. The US women's team has won all three softball gold medals awarded in the sport. The strength of the US team reflects the popularity of fastpitch softball among women in the United States. The Amateur Softball Association of America reports that it "annually registers over 260,000 teams combining to form a membership of more than 4.5 million". These numbers do not all apply to fastpitch, yet it is consistently growing along with slowpitch.
More than 40 million adults and youngsters play annually in the United States some form of competitive and recreational softball and the majority of them play Amateur Softball Association softball. Softball is the largest team participation sport in the U.S.A. Because of its popularity many associations have been created to organize the sport over the past 25 years: the American Fastpitch Association (AFA), National Softball Association (NSA), the Independent Softball Association (ISA), and Pony League Baseball and Softball to name a few.