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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Struck Strikes Out: The buzz about high school softball

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

She was so naive that she once wore a bee keeper's suit to a Sting concert.

When I told her we were going to see the movie "Cool Hand Luke," she asked me if I thought she would need her mittens.

And then there's the time I invited her over for brats and she brought the DHS and a child therapist with her.

Try as I may, I couldn't smarten that girl up one bit. But her upside was so up (she was a Yankee fan with really big boos... for the Red Sox) that I reasoned coping with her innocent mind was a small price to pay.

Besides, it wasn't all her fault. You see, she was a high school sotball player, which meant she was cloistered in either practice, games, or team meetings year around since the 7th grade. Every day of her springs and summers was devoted to softball and her rigrous routine of a 55-game schedule and daily practice sessions, including game days, occupied so much of her time that she didn't have a life, let alone a social life.

So, a result of this single focus was a girl who knew very little about the world outside the white lines, backstop, and outfield fences of the softball field. Her only sanctuary was a dugout.

But I see a light at the end of the tunnel. The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) is making changes to ensure that our softball players no longer feel imprisoned by their sport.

Softball will experience a major shift in its season starting next year, with the state tournament moving from early August to mid-July.  The July 15-19 state tournament in Fort Dodge is two weeks earlier than the 2007 tournament.  The front end of the season moves forward one week, with practice starting May 5 and the first game date May 19 in 2008.  District and regional tournaments will begin around July 4.  At the same time, the number of allowable softball games has been reduced from 50 to 40. 

The number of available playing dates will remain virtually unchanged next year, however, as the tournament series has been significantly compressed.  The current tournament schedule was set up in the "old" days, when district runners-up advanced to play at least one more round and there were only two classes of competition. 

In addition, the current schedule allows for up to nine days between qualifying for state and a school playing its first game, so there is plenty of room to compress the existing dates.

The softball changes were prompted by a trend of decreasing participation, particularly among seniors.  While there are many factors that can be attributed to this trend, the fact that softball, in many respects, has evolved into a full time job was one of those factors our schools control. 

If you look at the other nine IGHSAU activity programs, all involve two or three hours after school, with a couple of competitions per week. 

But it has not been uncommon for schools to have up to five softball competitions per week, with a commitment of six or seven hours per day.  The lack of school during the summer should not mean there is "extra" time for school sports such as softball.

Thank you, IGHSAU for understanding the problem and actually doing something about it, although what is wrong with a 30-game season instead of 40?

Then I'd have more time to see my girl and go catch a Sting concert. She could even wear her softball suit to the concert - anything but the bee keeper's suit. Ever try to nuzzle somebody wearing one of those masks?

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