Legislative Council denies softball's move to fall
Local female athletes and their peers throughout Tennessee will not have to make a tough choice if they want to continue playing softball as well as the current fall sport they are currently playing as the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Legislative Council voted down the sport’s move from spring to fall at Wednesday’s December meeting.
Had the measure passed, the fall sports season would have been full of girls’ team sports as soccer and volleyball are already taking place from August through October. Meanwhile, girls would only have tennis and track to participate in during the spring.
Locally, head coaches from both Dyer County and Dyersburg’s high school programs are pleased with keeping softball as a spring sport.
“I am very pleased with the decision,” Dyer County head coach Shanna O’Bright said. “We share a lot of athletes between volleyball and softball.
“I just don’t think it would have been fair for the girls to have to choose what fall sport to play.”
O’Bright added maintaining the status quo was better for the athletes.
“It is better for the kids to continue to have volleyball in the fall and softball in the spring,” O’Bright said.
Dyersburg head coach Matthew Shearon added he was not surprised that the proposed move failed to pass.
“Talking to other coaches, I just figured with too much movement in other female sports, it would not pass,” Shearon said.
The athletes on the field are not the only thing the programs at Dyersburg and Dyer County share as each of the schools’ softball coaching staffs are coaching other sports in the fall. Dyer County’s O’Bright is also the school’s volleyball head coach while Lady Trojan skipper Shearon is the DHS Trojan defensive coordinator during the gridiron season.
If the move had passed, the players on the Lady Trojan and Lady Choctaw teams would not have been the only ones having to make a decision.
“In high school sports, most coaches coach more than one sport and you’d have some crossover with some other sports,” Shearon said. “Just too many moving parts to the puzzle, in my opinion.”
Shearon, who has coached the Lady Trojans to the Spring Fling in each of his two seasons as head coach, added he had already looked at what he would do had the measure passed.
“It was definitely something that I had already started planting the bug in talking to (DHS athletic director Blaine) Mahaffey, (DHS head football coach Bart Stowe) and (DHS Principle Kim) Worley about,” Shearon said. “But, like I said, on the front end, I knew it would probably be met with a lot of resistance up front.
“Fortunately, for me specifically and our programs at Dyersburg High School, we don’t have to worry about it.”
O’Bright, who is coming off a volleyball season which saw the Lady Choctaws reach sectionals and a diamond campaign where DCHS made its first trip to the Spring Fling this past May, said a decision between volleyball and softball would have been a tough one.
“I couldn’t even think about it,” O’Bright said of having to decide between volleyball and softball. “I wouldn’t know what to think – I just don’t know.
“I told myself I wasn’t going to think about it until the decision was made. And, if the decision was made the other way, then I would consider. I don’t even want to choose between the two.”
The proposed change to Article IV, Section 8 (TSSAA Sports Calendar) was submitted by Columbia Central High School.
The proposal listed various benefits to moving softball to the fall, including better weather conditions and being closer to travel ball season as well as helping improve local recreation leagues and middle school programs (i.e. high school coaches could be free to helm middle school programs to prepare the younger players for the prep programs).
Another benefit the proposal listed was the move could make it easier for college coaches to recruit players from Tennessee. The proposal points out the current high school season runs concurrent with the college season, which limits a coach’s ability to see the player they are recruiting during the season. It added many can only see these players during summer travel ball season.
Dyersburg State head coach George White was in favor of moving softball to the fall for this reason, adding Gracie Friga from Notre Dame High School in Missouri – where softball is currently a fall sport – is a prime example of being able to recruit more effectively outside of the college season.
“It would have given me an opportunity to get to places that I can’t because we’re so busy in the spring as well,” White said. “When I recruited Gracie Friga from Notre Dame High School in Missouri, I was able to go see her play five or six times because I had so much free time.
“I was hoping that they would do it because it would give me an opportunity to see kids out there that you can’t get to see because of schedule conflicts.”
White also added the springtime weather can play havoc with trips to watch potential recruits.
“You have make up games and you’d have planned to go watch a team play,” White said. “Then you can’t because of inclement weather has gotten in the way.”
White added he felt moving softball to the fall would have been a good thing because it would have allowed more college coaches the ability to see high school players.
In other actions taken by the Legislative Council on Wednesday, a proposed addition to Article III, Section 10 of the TSSAA/TMSAA bylaws was tabled until to March. The council asked for the proposal, which deals with unsportsmanlike conduct, to be rewritten and sent to the member schools.
The proposal would add to if a fan is ejected from an athletic contest, the school will be given a choice of removing the fan for a minimum of the next two contests or fined $500 and face further disciplinary action.
It would also add if a fan is ejected from an athletic contest, and the fan is a relative of a student-athlete participating in the contest, the school will be given a choice of removing the student-athlete and the fan for a minimum of the next two contests or fined $500 and face further disciplinary action.