The local adult slo-pitch league—a 20-year tradition here—is facing tough times as it faces falling enrolment, with only 20 teams registered to play this summer.
“It’s just slowly been decreasing over the course of the years,” noted Megan Ross, physical education director with the Memorial Sports Centre and organizer of the league.
“We’re down two [teams] from last year, so a couple of the older teams have decided to hang up their cleats,” she added.
Ross said one of the main reasons the league is losing players is that “baby-boomers” are leaving the game and the next generation isn’t taking their place.
“I know they’ve been getting more people out for the soccer leagues, men’s and women’s, and I understand more people are golfing,” she explained.
The league has taken notice—and has taken steps to bring younger players into the lineup.
One of the major moves was to start up a Little League baseball program here, with the hopes that childhood sluggers will stick with the game and turn to slo-pitch in their adult lives.
“Hopefully, maybe in a few years, we’ll see more teams registered,” Ross said.
The other big move was to directly target a high school and college-age crowd, she added.
The league put announcements up in Fort Frances High School, and advertised more aggressively in print and radio—not to mention word of mouth, which Ross noted is an effective way to get the message out in a community like Fort Frances.
The plan seems to have worked, with younger teams like “The Pink Flamingos” and “Northernaires” coming into the fold this season.
Tristyn Rose, one of the Northernaires’ founders, started a team of his own after playing on other ones for the past four years.
“I didn’t have a team to play on, [so] me and a couple friends decided to start up a team,” the 22-year-old said. “I’m one of the older people on my team, but I think we’re the youngest team in the league.”
He said it wasn’t too hard to get friends to join—many of them came to him asking to get on the team. Rose said the league’s notoriety was a factor in getting a team together as easily as he did.
But how does he feel about playing in a league against some much older teams?
“It doesn’t matter,” Rose said. “We’re getting to play.”