The question is asked again and again at softball events everywhere, and the answers may not be the same depending upon the sanctioning organization rules for any particular tournament. So let’s talk about SPA’s rules, what they mean, and why they might be the way that they are.
Why do we have such rules?
When softball players or athletes in general come to the park to compete, it’s just human nature that everybody wants a chance to be competitive or at least a glimmer of hope that they might win. For that reason, most softball organizations, SPA included, try to “classify” the teams, such that similar skill levels wind up competing together. Let’s face it nobody (win or lose) enjoys the “run-away” games that wind up forty to nothing embarrassments. So teams are grouped and classified to try to give everybody a sporting chance.
Classifying teams is a difficult task at best, when one considers that these teams are traveling and playing all around the country, sometimes with one organization and sometimes with another. The task of evaluating and classifying teams becomes almost impossible, when the teams show up with different players at every tournament. Let’s face it there are too many teams out there that will “load-up” with new and better players at every opportunity. While we all understand that it is a necessity for teams to occasionally replace players, constant wholesale change just to “sandbag” and build a team that is stronger than its classification is wrong, and destroys any chance of proper classification for that team as the season progresses.
To make classification meaningful in both its men’s and women’s programs, SPA has chosen to “freeze” each team’s roster, when that team plays its first tournament of the year. In other words, when a team “qualifies” for the World Tournament by playing in any SPA tournament, that team’s roster is going to be held to rules designed to maintain the team’s classification.
What does “frozen” mean? Are we stuck?
Does this mean that I can’t play anywhere else?
There is a great deal of misunderstanding as to what a “frozen roster” really is in SPA, so let’s see if we can answer some of the concerns. First of all, a player is NOT stuck on a roster once it has been “frozen”. SPA has no restrictions on players being dropped from a qualified roster, except to say that once dropped a player may not return to that same qualified team. No releases or approvals are required. So if a player wants to leave their team to join another team, he/she may certainly do so, as long as he/she is eligible to be added to their new team’s roster. Likewise, it is legal in SPA for a player to be on more than one roster and play with more than one team, as long as those rosters are for different age groups. There are special rules concerning “double-rostering” that allow for playing on two teams in the same tournament with restrictions, but as long as a player is playing with another age group on separate weekends, then there is no problem or restriction.
What if a player is sick or injured? Are we just out of luck?
Once a team’s roster has been “frozen”, everybody understands that there will be times when illness, injury, or unforeseen circumstances will require an additional player. To try to accommodate these needs, SPA allows any team to add 2 players to its “qualified” (frozen) roster, but to try to keep the classification issues in line they require that these players come from a higher age division. This way a team can still keep their qualification to World, continue to compete, and yet still remain within their current classification rating.
Is there any way that a roster can be “Unfrozen” so that we can start over?
Sure, we all know that a situation may arise that forces a team to have to totally regroup and just start over. Whatever the circumstance that might cause this to happen, because now we are dealing with groups of new players from the same age group, it necessitates the need for a brand new evaluation of that team’s classification rating. For that reason, SPA requires a team that needs to be “unfrozen” to officially register that need, so that the roster can be opened and the classification review process can begin anew for that team. In line with this review, the team is required to “re-qualify” for the World tournament by playing in an additional SPA event. This re-qualification gives the classification committee an opportunity to evaluate the newly formed team in a game situation.
We all wish that this was an ideal world, where every team is competitive and the old “you get yours and we’ll get ours” mentality could work, but that’s just not the world that we live in. The rules that SPA has put in place represent a very honest attempt to make the game more enjoyable for all.