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EAST NEPEAN EAGLES: A Program to be proud of, yet one that enjoys an unfair advantage.

July 2011: East Nepean just captured their 8th consecuitve Little League District Championship (Majors).

So far, their team is undefeated in the regular season, with a run diffential of 12+ runs per game. Earlier this month, they captured 1st place at the 2011 Del Harper classic in Perth.

Here are the last time the other District 2 teams won the Championship at Majors:
Kanata in 2003 (8 years ago)
Pinecrest in 1997 (14 years ago)
CFR in 1990 (21 years ago)

This year, East Nepean captured the District Championship at every level.  Their summer teams from Minor through Junior are a combined 12-2 with a run differential of 170-41 (9.2 run difference per game).

Their success is a testament to their well run program, from organizers to coaches, to parent involvment and player committment.  But it is also a testament to the unfair advantage they are allowed to enjoy.

If you think District 2 is no different from any other District in Ontario, where 1 team is allowed to dominate, think again.   As of 2010, in District 1, there has been 3 different winners in the past 4 years.  In District 3, there has been 6 different winners in the past 8 years.  In District 7, there has been 4 different winners in the past 6 years.

So why are things so unbalanced in District 2?

The first thing has to do with the current demographics.  Two of the Leagues are land-locked by their boundaries.  Meaning there is no growth potential.  Pinecrest and CFR are centrally located in mature communities with either higher cost housing (meaning fewer young families) or poorer intercity families that don't register in organized sports. This means a diminishing pool of players to draw upon, and no new facilities or diamonds forthcoming in these communities by developers or the city.

The benefits of having a large (and growing) recruiting base are numerous and compounding:
  1. allows for greater registration
  2. allows for the development of coaches and players
  3. allows for formal off-season training programs, because there is enough players to draw upon
  4. means greater financial resources, to pay for these facilities and programs
  5. allows for a greater pool of volunteers to draw upon for establishing a strong and established executive committee.
  6. means winning championships which fuels pride in the program.
All of the above have been on the decline for years (with the odd hickup here or there) in land-locked leagues. The history of success these leagues enjoyed are far in the past and no longer in the minds of the few volunteers who struggle to keep the programs alive.

IMO, there are 3 options to deal with the problem:

1) re-draw the boundaries
2) amalgamate the 2 land-locked leagues
3) do nothing ... and eventually one of the 2 leagues will fold (like West Carleton and Arnprior)

Redrawing the boundaries doesn't really seem fair, if it means East Nepean losing players they currently have, especially if they can accommodate them all (and not refuse registrations).

Having CFR and Pinecrest merge allegedly would bring on the ire of the old establishment.  But maybe the threat of a merger is what is needed to happen to get "them" back involved in helping promote, recruit and attract sposnsorship to re-energize the Leagues.
Eventually, I suspect that one of the Leagues will inevitably fold and then the other League will be given a reprieve.
But while we wait this out, what else can District 2 do to help the smaller/poorer Leagues?

How about a cooperative District wide off-season program that is open to all Leagues in District 2?

How about D2 petitioning that Little League adopt a rule change, whereby any player who is declined to play on the A team of one of the Leagues, can then be placed on another A team (in need of players) and be permitted to play in Districts and then have the option to be grandfathered in that League? 

I understand that the youth Football leagues in Ottawa work jointly together and allow for players to be released from teams so that they can be placed on teams with smaller registration numbers.

Why would East Nepean have a vested interest in the success of its rivals?  Simple: playing stronger competition makes them stronger (and better prepared for Provincials).