The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) was founded as the United States Slow-pitch Softball Association in the spring 1968. Over that last weekend of August 1968 the first USSSA World Softball Tournament was played in West Allis Wisconsin. Over the past 40 years USSSA has grown from a couple of thousand slow-pitch softball players to over 3.5 million participants playing 13 primary sports. In fact, USSSA sanctions teams and individuals in 38 sports.
USSSA’s first decade was a turbulent one. USSSA led the charge to allow amateur athletes to play slow-pitch softball in whatever league or association they wished. Prior to 1975, ASA, then the largest slow-pitch softball association, barred any of its teams from playing in any non-ASA sanctioned event or league. This rule was first challenged in ASA’s internal process and then brought to a close after USSSA successfully filed suit in Federal Court to stop ASA’s discrimatory practices. People playing softball, and now playing many other sports, is what USSSA has always been about and has served as a foundation for its continued growth.
In the eighties USSSA grew by leaps and bounds. USSSA purchased a building in Petersburg, Virginia for its National Headquarters and Hall of Fame Museum. By the end of the decade USSSA membership had surpassed 100,000 teams and USSSA toured the world to promote softball, sportsmanship, and good will.
The nineties were the best and the worst of times for USSSA. The association continued to grow, however softball was decreasing in popularity. The various associations were cannibalizing each other in order to inflate their team registration numbers. In 1998 USSSA suffers a tragic loss when its longtime CEO passes away. The Board of Directors, immediately named the Assistant Executive Director, Don DeDonatis, as the new CEO. DeDonatis initiated sweeping changes. The changes included branching out into sports other than softball. By the end of the nineties USSSA had grown to over 1.6 million participants, with 300,000 being non slow-pitch softball.
In March 2003 USSSA moved its national headquarters from Virginia to Osceola County, Florida. This move has benefited USSSA and Osceola County in many positive ways. In 2007 USSSA had over 3.5 million participants and is solely responsible for 58,044 room nights in Central Florida, of which 45,307 room nights are in Osceola County. This means millions of dollars in positive economic impact to the region.
Currently, USSSA nationally governs 13 amateur sports. Slow-pitch softball, baseball, fast-pitch softball, and basketball athletes make up approximately 90% of USSSA’s membership. The remaining 9 sports account for over 350,000 registrations in USSSA, including Tae Kwan Do and Soccer, two sports that USSSA holds events in Osceola County. Over the past ten years USSSA has not failed to increase its year to year membership. In fact, for all but 3 of those 10 years USSSA’s membership has grown by over 10% per year.