Little League Challenger Baseball

Posted on March 30th, 2013 by Denise | No Comments

Little League Challenger Baseball


Denise Koonce OTR

The smell of popcorn, freshly cut field grass, chalk, sweat, and leather bring back a flood of memories from my childhood involving softball.  Softball was something I looked forward to every year and now as an adult, I treasure the memories it has provided.  Unfortunately, there were children in my hometown who did not have the same opportunity to participate in a ball league due to their physical limitations.  They would come, sit on the sidelines and have to watch the game.  Fortunately, this isn’t the case anymore as Little League International created a Division so everyone can play and not have to just sit on the sidelines.   The Division is called the Challenger Division.  Little League Challenger Baseball has over 30,000 players worldwide and over 900 Challenger Divisions. This division was created about 22 years ago and has provided children with special needs the opportunity to participate and enjoy the game of baseball.  For the last 10 or so years the Challenger Division has held a World Series.   We are fortunate that the greater Houston area has at least 4 Challenger Divisions; West University, Katy American, League City/Friendswood and South Belt Area.  The West University Division is one of the largest divisions in the nation with over 1,300 players.  Challenger Baseball is a baseball program for girls and boys, ages 5 – 18 or up to 22 if still enrolled in high school, with physical and mental disabilities.  The Little League Challenger Baseball uses a Buddy System.  The Buddy System involves teaming up a junior high or high school student up with a challenger player.  The Buddy participates throughout the entire game and season if possible.  The Buddy’s role is to assist the challenger player to bat, run the bases, and play the field positions.  They serve to engage the player and help them to get the most out of their game experience.  The buddy also assists in keeping the player safe during the course of the game.  Both the Challenger player and their Buddy receive immense benefits from their experience together.   In the Challenger Little League Division, teams are set up according to abilities and not ages.  Teams can include up to 15-20 players.  The Challenger game is also set up different in that each player has a turn at bat.  The side is retired once the roster lineup has batted through, or if a predetermined amount of runs have crossed home plate or when three outs occur.  They do not keep score in this division as the emphasis is on playing baseball not so much the aspect of winning. 

Encouraging children with special needs to participate in team sports provides an avenue for general exercise and health.  It also provides an avenue for interacting with others in an unfamiliar environment and working together with an expectation of individual accomplishment for the greater good of the team.  It can teach courage, camaraderie, leadership, and focus.  Many times parents who have a child with a disability, hesitates to engage their child in sports due to the fear of injury.  Many parents have seen their children struggle so much physically due to their diagnosis that they do not want to add anything that might increase the possibility of more injury.  Although the possibility remains, the lost opportunity to gain all the benefits from playing a sport is also lost.  So, instead of denying or eliminating team sports, determine the one you as a parent fill the most comfortable with and begin there.  If it goes well then try continue with that sport or try another sport next season. 

There are numerous sport options available to children with special need in our current culture.  Some are individual sports and some are team minded.  Some of the other sports available are football, soccer, basketball, swimming, and hockey.  Individual sports can include martial arts, golf, sailing, bowling and many more.  If your child has the opportunity to participate in at least one team sport in one or more seasons they will benefit greatly.

Reach Therapy Center has been a team sponsor through the West University Challenger Division now for about 5-6 years.  It has been an honor to be a part of such an incredible endeavor.  We have been proud to watch some of our own patients play on the teams.  By watching them on the field we have witnessed them using the very skills we have helped them work so hard to obtain during therapy.  What a reward!  If you are involved with a team sport for individuals with a disability, please share some of your experiences and the benefits you received.

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