CHEYENNE – The wait is almost over for high school softball players and fans.
The Wyoming High School Activities Association on Tuesday officially approved adding fast-pitch softball in a unanimous vote, starting in the spring of 2021.
Because the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees sanctioned the sport during its Sept. 16 meeting, Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne East and Cheyenne South plan to offer the sport. Work already is underway behind the scenes on a series of steps that must be completed prior to the first pitch of the inaugural season.
“Now our job is just to implement it at the district and school level,” LCSD1 Superintendent Boyd Brown told WyoSports on Wednesday.
The softball season will mirror those of soccer and outdoor track and field, in terms of start and end dates, according to Central athletics director and WHSAA board member Chad Whitworth.
LCSD1 was the last district to approve the sport, pushing the total number of schools that have sanctioned the sport to 11: Central, East, South, Cody, Rock Springs, Green River, Campbell County, Thunder Basin, Casper Kelly Walsh, Casper Natrona County and Laramie.
“Our school district administration building did a nice job of having a plan laid out as far as we didn’t just run into it as far as saying, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do it,’” Whitworth said. “They went through it and got the logistics as far as finances and things like that done and how we’re going to take care of it.”
LCSD1 created a first-year preliminary softball cost summary for each school, according to board meeting documents. The estimates were done on 30-player rosters with three coaches. The season will be comprised of 14 games for both levels and a two-day state tournament.
Each school will be allotted an estimated $68,671 for the first-year startup, which adds up to $206,013 for all three high schools in the district. The ongoing estimated year-to-year cost will be between $50,000-$60,000 per school, which adds up to $150,000-$180,000 for the entire district.
Each school will have one head coach and two assistants; the head coach will receive a stipend of $7,747 per season, while each assistant coach will receive a $5,810 stipend, according to LCSD1 estimates.
Equipment – bats, bat bags, game balls, caps/visors, batting tees, helmets, uniforms (home and away), travel bags, bases, batting cages, a pitching net, batting gloves, a pitching machine and other miscellaneous supplies – is estimated to cost each school $22,670.
To combat the high cost of equipment, Whitworth said all three LCSD1 high schools will look into buying in bulk to save money.
“The administration building and the schools will get together and go, ‘OK, what are the things we can do in an effort …?” Whitworth said. “And we would do that in anything, I think. … In this particular case, with all the things we have to purchase to begin a new sport, I think that those are things to me that are no-brainers that we would get together and figure out.”
Another thing LCSD1 schools will start working on is securing a group of umpires, and figuring out how coaches will get certified, which will be done through the Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board.
LCSD1 is in initial talks with the city of Cheyenne about renting out softball fields, as well. Though exact facilities were not named, there is the possibility the district will look at Converse Softball Complex, Pride Park, Brimmer Park and/or Dunbar Field at Lions Park.
“We’re just looking at a partnership and an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with (the city),” Brown said. “I’m pretty sure the city will work with us. We work with the city to do a lot of rec league and adult league stuff at our facilities, so I think that it’ll be something that they’ll be happy to help us with.”
LCSD1 plans to have the coaching hiring process complete by the spring of 2020, Brown said.
Whitworth also touched on why softball will be a spring sport, rather than a fall sport. A big factor, he said, was the participation numbers in the spring compared to the fall.
“Some of it, in my opinion, is when this came up, it was brought forth as part of a Title IX type issue,” he said. “I look at it as a school and say we offer so many female sports in the fall and adding one more I don’t think would necessarily increase our participation.”
Girls have cross-country, golf, swimming, tennis, volleyball and football available as fall sports. The only spring sports are golf, soccer and track and field.
“Adding softball in the fall might just shuffle kids from other sports into softball, which is fine. I’m not saying good or bad,” Whitworth said. “But I’m saying if one of our goals is to increase female participation, putting (softball) in the spring where the chances are, we will get some … I’m assuming we would get some kids that will play softball that don’t necessarily play soccer or run track.”
Tyler Poslosky is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at 307-633-3123 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TylerPoslosky.