Brenda Paulson’s USSSA involvement began in 1975 when she participated in the first USSSA Class B World Tournament. Illinois did not have a Women’s Program and in 1977 she was coerced into becoming the USSSA Women’s Director.
While attending her first National Convention in 1977, she was exposed to the new 11-inch softball. Having used that ball in leagues and tournaments the next season, the 11-inch softball became the standard for the Women’s Program in 1980. In 1981, Charlie O’Donnell, USSSA Regional Vice President, appointed Paulson the Illinois State Director.
Paulson was the first female in any National Softball Association to be appointed a State Director. Of course, there was opposition, but over the next few years, it became clear that O’Donnell had made the right decision. Along with her husband, Ken, Paulson traveled the state, meeting with many park districts, potential directors and attended numerous league meetings.
In 1981, Illinois registered under 300 teams and had no state tournament program. By 1984, Illinois was in the top ten nationally in team and umpire registrations, and has been there ever since. In 1987, Paulson received the USSSA’s most prestigious honor (aside from induction into the National USSSA Hall of Fame), the President’s Award. She also received the deBeer Sportswoman of the Year Memorial Award.
In 1988, Paulson received another award for a 25% increase in team registrations. Illinois now registered over 4,000 teams and had over 500 teams participating in State Tournaments. In 1993, the YMCA honored Paulson as one of Rockford’s outstanding women with the Janet Lynn Leadership Award for sports. In 1996, the Rockford Park District with Illinois Parks & Recreation awarded her a Community Service Award because her tournaments throughout the state had economically impacted those communities.
On a national level, Paulson served on many committees in her 22 years of National Conventions. She has chaired committees and been instrumental in making important changes for the betterment of softball. Changes she spearheaded and supported include: 3-2 count, re-entry rule, starting the game with less than 10 players, total home runs instead of home run hitters, penalties for illegal players/teams, Women’s World Series, 11-inch softball, Class C & D programs and many more.
Paulson has served as Tournament Director for numerous NITs, State, Regional and Divisional Tournaments, including the Women’s World Series in 1997. In 2000, she traveled to Texas to be the Tournament Director of the Women’s Class C World.
When asked what her claim to fame would be, Paulson said, “I’ve only ever done what I think is fair for my teams. I can’t control team classification in other states, but I can, hopefully, find a way to combat the discrepancy seen between states.”