Posted 2/22/12 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
When the call goes out to “play ball” this spring, it won’t just be the boys that will be picking up their bats and balls at Watford City High School.
For the first time in Watford City High School’s history, girls will have their chance to take to the field as the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 school board, at its Feb. 13 meeting, officially agreed to sanction girls fast pitch softball.
According to Tim Dwyer, the spokesperson for the Watford City Girls Fast Pitch Softball Booster Club, the interest in the sport at Watford City High School has been incredible with 28 girls expressing interest in playing the sport.
“We are seeing a huge number of schools in the state that are offering fast pitch softball programs,” stated Dwyer. “And we want to be able to offer girls at Watford City High School the chance to participate in this sport as well.”
Currently, according to Dwyer, there are 16 Class B schools that offer fast pitch softball as a sanctioned high school sport, and more schools are looking at offering the program this spring.
“Because we missed the January deadline for being sanctioned by the school, we won’t be able to qualify for any post season play this year,” stated Dwyer. “But we still want to get the program started and be able to play softball this spring.”
While the school board was willing to proceed with sanctioning the sport, school board members were concerned about the costs that the district may incur.
“My concern is the timeliness of this request to add another sport as well as the fact that our district’s athletic budget is running at a deficit,” stated Steve Holen, district superintendent. “Our boys baseball program costs the district between $4,000 and $5,000 a year.”
But according to Dwyer, the cost to the district of adding fast pitch softball this spring would be minimal the first year.
“We, the Girls Fast Pitch Softball Booster Club, are willing to pay for all the costs the first year,” stated Dwyer. “But we are asking that the school district pick up the costs after that just as they are doing for the boys baseball program.”
According to Dwyer, it would cost the district approximately $4,300 a year to run a girls fast pitch softball program.
Dwyer also informed the school board that the Watford City Park District has approved the use of one of their softball fields for the girls softball program.
“The booster club is willing to maintain the infield and the park district will take care of the outfield,” stated Dwyer. “So there will be no cost to the school district other than providing portable toilets during the season when the park district’s bathrooms are closed.”
For school board member Pam Ramage, the option of offering fast pitch softball as a new sport of girls was not only exciting but something that the school board needed to support.
“The boys have four sports in the spring that they can choose to compete in. But the girls only have two sports,” stated Ramage. “If we don’t go with this, we’re saying we value boys sports more. Plus this is a girls sport. We know that girls can play in the high school boys baseball program. But this is a girls sport and they will be playing girls.”
But according to Holen, it isn’t the number of sports that are being offered to boys and girls that is important when it comes to Title 9 compliance.
“We knew when we allowed baseball, we knew that another girls sport could be coming,” stated Holen. “But Title 9 isn’t an issue as to whether or not we agree to sanction the sport. With Title 9 we have to offer equal opportunities and equal facilities for boys and girls.”
Holen also acknowledged that with the addition of another spring sport that there is a possibility of it impacting other sports, such as track and golf.
“No doubt there is going to be an impact to the other sports,” stated Holen. “We’re just going to have to deal with those issues. But with more students coming into the high school, we may find that we won’t have as many conflicts as we thought.”
As part of the school district’s agreement to offer fast pitch softball, the board indicated that it would be willing to have the district’s athletic director assist the booster club in scheduling games and to hire the coach, if someone on the school’s staff willing to take the position. In addition, the booster club would be able to use one of the district’s buses to travel to games if one is available.