Playing Ball in Europe? REALLY?
Yep, a long time ago..way back in 1996 we formed a little tournament called ‘the Cup’. It wasn’t a big thing is was held in Lyon, France. We had a French team, the Swiss learned about this, then the British, within 3 years this little tournament we coined ‘the Cup’ became THE TOURNAMENT of Europe. The Europeans LOVE it as this events marks the beginning of Softball.
In 2002 after many years, we outgrew the facility in Lyon and moved to where European softball is ‘QUEEN’ --- the Netherlands. The tournament is governed by the Dutch Fastpitfch Softball Federation, which is a member of the ESF (European Softball Federation) and subsequent member of the ISF (International Softball Federation).
This 1996 Cup tournament was originally comprised of a team from the United States and several teams from France. I was working with the French team at that time and continued to talk about how ‘American female athletes were SO good’ at this same age”, well, you don’t say that too many times before someone will stand up and say, ‘BRING ‘EM ON!” Well, THAT was the start. I sure did bring a team over and they kind of got a good lesson in AWESOME AMERICAN ATHLETES!
The goal of a tournament of this caliber was and continues to be to show the teams what it was like to play ball at a high level and to teach these teams the essence of ball and how it is played so well at such a young age.
In 1998, big changes began in the development of the tournament. More teams had ‘enlisted’ to attend this tournament. The U.S. team had changed to an International selection of athletes from both Canada and the U.S. in a mixed program now known as the North American Select team. During the 1998 campaign, not only was the North American Select Team present but there were several European teams also invited to this, now, more prestigious tournament.
1999 was a continuation of the growth and prestige of this tournament! Germany, Switzerland, Holland as well as the French all had their National teams represented. In 2000 the North American Select Team fielded 4 teams to compete in this tournament.
The Cup – which this tournament is now known as – in 2000 continued to prosper with National teams again from Germany, Switzerland, Holland and the French Hosts National team but also from Great Britain. Several new teams from across Europe in addition to the 4 North American Select Teams (NAST) and a group of 2 Ohio based teams and supporters filled out the tournament slots.
Cup 2002 was a huge success not only in changing the location from Lyon, France to Schiedam, the Netherlands but the talent level provided by this new venue increased 10 fold.
This game is dramatically different in many ways as it is played indoors, in several ‘soccer’ halls. We play with 8 defensively, an ‘indoor’ ball with rules changed for ‘indoor’ play! This game is a game of speed! Even MORE strategy and speed are needed in performing well at this tournament.
Each team has a guaranteed amount of games for ‘pool’ play with all advancing to tournament play. With the 3 halls, games run quickly and smoothly with the beginning of the tournament played on Saturday morning and ending an up to 7 game stretch on Sunday evening.
With the common thread of fastpitch softball enveloping the community of players, language barriers are virtually non-existent. With this tournament being held in one of the more beautiful cities in Europe, the area, cuisine, night-life and atmosphere is second to none!
The upcoming Cup 2014 will be played again in Mid-January, 2014 will have teams and players from all over Europe. A few of these teams have players that have played on International teams, Olympic teams, etc.! The talent level of competition is intense and fierce, now that we're playing in Holland. There is no better region in Europe for this tournament!
There are comments on the teams in both directions. Most can’t fathom that the U.S./Canadian based players are so very young and so very good! On the other hand these same young U.S./Canadian based players cannot believe that these other team’s players can be nearly as strong, smart and athletic as their ages range from 17 – 40! Believe me, they learn soon that just because you are older doesn’t mean you have to lose much - more then likely they may have lost some abilities but are exceptionally talented in finding YOUR weaknesses and hiding their own. A great example of an older player doing well was in the 1998 Cup when Dutch player Ineke van der Linden – at more then 30 years old - was named the most valuable player. In Cup 2002, a Dutch Player that was only 15 was the MVP.