USA Softball has announced the launch of a high-performance programme which will aim to serve as a pipeline to the national team.
USA Softball says the programme will focus on developing player skills, while teaching and growing the game of softball in the United States.
The programme will be inclusive to all, but will have a special focus on athletes and coaches in the junior Olympic girls' fast pitch division.
"We are excited to officially launch the USA Softball High Performance Program," said Craig Cress, USA Softball chief executive.
"Because the High Performance Program serves as a direct pipeline to the national team programme, players will have a clear pathway to representing the U.S. at a future WBSC World Cup.
"Additionally, all players who participate will develop their skills which is essential to growing the game and contributing to the USA Softball mission."
The high-performance programme will consist of four levels.
The levels include local area identifiers, local area invitational try-outs, regional team events and USA Softball junior women’s national team age-specific try-outs.
Athletes will first participate in identifiers and try-outs at the local level, which will take place in 10 USA Softball regions throughout the country.
The top athletes will be named to their respective area pool.
Teams will then participate in regional events, with standout athletes advancing to the national team trial or pool.
Athletes may also secure a place in a national team event.
A selection process for the junior women’s national team would follow, with athletes officially selected to represent the United States at a World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) international event.
"In a year when things seemed too unattainable due to COVID-19, USA Softball used the time to look at how better we identify athletes across the country by talking to coaches in the travel ball industry and our local associations members," said Chris Sebren, USA Softball director of national teams.
"This new programme has taken a lot of effort, by many individuals, to make sure that athletes across the US have a chance to showcase their skills on the field, represent their hometown or local area, and work their way up to that spot on our national teams.
"The WBSC, having implemented World Cups at the under-15 and under-18 age levels, has also created the need for such a programme throughout the US.
"Ultimately, I’m excited for what the High Performance Program is going to provide for our future junior women’s national teams."
USA Softball says that should the coronavirus pandemic affect an athlete’s ability to showcase their skills, the governing body will provide additional opportunities prior to the selection of a national team.
Athletes will be evaluated based on their performances at each try-out, with additional metric testing being included for athletes who are selected to attend the junior women’s national team events.
The evaluation, placement, training and re-evaluation process will reportedly help identify athletes for advancement consideration and work to discover future national team athletes.