(ATR) The 2020 USA Softball Women's National Team will be taking the show on the road throughout the United States in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics next summer.
The "Stand Beside Her" tour is a series of competitions and training opportunities for the team. The current schedule kicks off in early February and wraps up in late June, about a month before the start of the Games in Tokyo.
Around the Rings found out much more about the tour through an interview with Andrea McKee, the managing director of marketing for USA Softball.
Around the Rings- Tell us about the name of the tour.
Andrea McKee-The idea for the "Stand Beside Her" tour came from a handful of our Women’s National Team athletes. They wanted something unique, that stood for more than the game. The message that we hope to spread throughout the country, is unity.
These athletes need everyone in the country to stand beside them as they go for Gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The athletes want to "Stand Beside Her", the 10 year old that dreams of being in their shoes one day, and make an impact in their lives across the country. Not only is this message to "Stand Beside Her" as a female athlete, but our Country - aka "Her" as well!
ATR - At the moment it looks like 25 stops with the last one just a few weeks before the Tokyo Games. That’s a lot of travel! You are aiming for 30 cities - ? When and where are you looking for the rest of the stops?
AMcK- We have 33 stops as of December 19, 2019, and you can find a schedule of our stops at www.standbesidehertour.com (more cities to be announced). It’s important for us to highlight our host cities and USA Softball Local Associations and what they are doing for us, so we are announcing each stop individually. With our schedule we are trying to balance our travel, training, and games, as well as rest and recovery for our athletes.
ATR- How did USA Softball come up with the idea? And why is it necessary?
AMcK-A pre-Olympic tour has happened every Olympic year since 2000 and it’s extremely important for the athletes and coaches to get this time together to train and compete as they prepare for the Olympics. It also provides USA Softball an opportunity to bring an Olympic softball team to local communities and hopefully inspire the next generation of athletes who one day hope to be in the shoes of the 18 athletes who they will see on the field.
ATR- What do you hope to accomplish with the tour?
AMcK-It’s USA Softball’s goal to make sure these athletes and coaches are ready to go when July comes and this tour will put the team in the best possible position heading into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This tour is also more than just the games that will be played and the training that will be done. We hope to bring everyone together by supporting this game and the females representing our country. We hope to inspire the next generation and bring home the Gold Medal.
ATR- What sort of marketing are you doing? And where are you getting financial support? Any big name sponsors to be announced?
AMcK-Each city and USA Softball Local Association who is hosting us has their own unique marketing plan.
The National Office will market the tour stops and the athletes through social media, news outlets, our website and more. We will be bringing on two major sponsors to financially support the Stand Beside Her tour. You can expect to see those announced, through a press release, in the near future.
Support for our National Team Program comes from our partners we have in the softball industry who are part of our equipment/apparel supplier pool, our current sponsors, and the many members of USA Softball and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC). We continue to seek partners for this program and our many others to help provide the extra training and support for our athletes and staff that the team needs. If anyone is interested in Standing Beside Her, please contact Dre McKee – firstname.lastname@example.org
ATR- Who will the WNT play?
AMcK-They will mostly play collegiate teams or "All Star" teams made up of college athletes. Local club teams and possibly some professional fastpitch teams are also expected for opponents. Once we have a complete list of opponents, you can find more information about each specific tour stop at www.standbesidehertour.com
ATR- The tour stops in Columbus, Georgia, where the US took the gold in 1996. It’s not the same field, but there must be some bit of sentimentality about being there. Any plans or interesting items?
AMcK-There is definitely sentimentality around playing in Columbus, GA, which our athletes and coaching staff experienced last summer when we hosted the USA Softball International Cup there. It was pretty special to bring Laura Berg, a four-time Olympian who has served on our coaching staff since 2012, back to the field where the ’96 Olympic Softball team captured the first Gold Medal forsoftball.
There are still volunteers and employees that worked the 1996 Olympics and continue to support softball and Columbus, GA. The stories they have and their experiences show how much the city as a whole supports USA Softball and all USA Olympic Sports.
Columbus, GA has put a lot of effort into the facility where we’ll play with a multi-million dollar renovation, so we’re excited to get back and play in Columbus once again.
ATR- Who will be your biggest competitors in Tokyo?
AMcK-We’re getting ready to take on every team that’s qualified for the Olympics as each country brings a unique style of play and strengths to the field. Every team that has qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Games are strong and we’ve exchanged wins and losses with them over the past decade.
That really speaks to the efforts that USA Softball, along with the international softball community, have put into growing our sport since we were removed following the 2008 Olympic Games. The competition at the 2020 Olympics shows we’ve all done a great job of raising the bar in softball and each country represented in Tokyo will prove to be tough competition.
ATR- Do you have any other plans for keeping softball front and center after 2020? There won’t be any softball in Paris. Are you looking ahead to LA2028 yet?
AMcK-Being out of the Olympic Games unfortunately is something our sport is quite familiar with, having been off the Olympic program in 2012 and 2016.
We join the international community in efforts to show not only how popular and strong our sport is, but the footprint that softball has across the globe in hopes of being on the LA 2028 Olympic Games program. We will continue to participate in high-level international events, promote and develop our sport and athletes at home and abroad and align with organizations who share the same passion for development for our game.
ATR- What about the fan experience? What will they get to see and do? And why should they go, other than to support the team?
AMcK-This is an experience fans haven’t had the chance to be a part of since 2008.
From the time the team arrives at the field, the fans will be able to watch them go through the whole process - watching pre-games, watching these young women stand proud during the National Anthem and then watch them perform during the game. At the end of each session, the team will do autograph sessions and we will also have memorabilia and merchandise for sale at each stop.
Many of the athletes on the 2020 roster were the girl in the autograph line or in the stands watching previous Olympic teams play in a tour stop, so they truly grasp just how special these tour stops are. They are all excited to meet the fans who are attending the games and show that dreams can come true.
ATR– What about fans who want to watch the games but can’t travel with the team? Will the games be streamed or broadcast? Are there any rights fees?
AMcK-We’re very excited to be able to have at least two games on our tour televised through the Pac-12 Network as we’ll be playing at the University of Arizona and the University of Oregon.
We have a longstanding relationship with ESPN, who have been great partners in broadcast for the USA Softball International Cup (previously World Cup of Softball), and we anticipate having a finalized broadcast schedule early in the 2020 season. For any game that we don’t currently have rights allocated to, there are still opportunities for those interested in partnering with us for the rights to those games. For any game that is not televised or streamed, fans can always follow along with us on our social media channels and we will have free live stats through USASoftball.com.
ATR– Anything we didn’t ask that you would like to say?
AMcK-The amount of support that the communities and fans have shown for the 2020 Women’s National Team and the "Stand Beside Her" tour has been incredible to witness, and we know that quite a few of the tour stops have almost reached their ticket capacity within a couple months of having tickets on sale.
It shows just how much of an impact that this program, the athletes, our hosts, and our Local Associations and their grassroots programming can have in their local communities and sport. We hope that fans at each stop will not only enjoy watching the competition that they’ll see on the field but leave inspired by these phenomenal athletes who represent the United States with passion and honor.
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