Feb 06, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Cazenovia Board of Education meeting room overflowed with students, parents, coaches and other supporters of the district’s girls’ softball program last Monday, Jan. 27, all of them there to lobby the school board to create a second modified team to accommodate the large influx of new seventh grade players moving up this year.
Without the addition of a second modified team, supporters claim, the program will have to cut about a dozen players this year since the program currently has no junior varsity team and the modified and varsity teams can only have a certain number of players. Such a circumstance could permanently harm the future of the program, since cut players may move to another sport, some argued.
“Frankly, we didn’t see the numbers coming out of the youth program like they did,” said varsity softball coach Ed Roickle. He told the board there are already 42 players signed up for this year’s program, and, without a third team, 10 or 12 girls will get cut. “There won’t be any other way to do it, and it would be a shame to deny them the chance to play,” he said.
The Cazenovia softball program historically has had one varsity, one junior varsity and one modified (grades 7 and 8) team. In 2012, due to large number of ninth and 10th graders on the varsity team, it was decided to temporarily eliminate the JV team while fielding a varsity team of 15 players and a 7-8 modified team of 15 players, for a total of 30 players. Money was included in the budget that year for a JV team but was not used, according to both Roickle and district athletic director Michael Byrnes.
Last year, money for a JV team was again included in the district budget but was not used due to small player numbers at the ninth and 10th grade levels. Instead, the modified team had 18 players and the varsity team has 17 players, Roickle said. After two years without a JV team, no money was budgeted for it in 2014 due to an uncertainty regarding numbers at the seventh and eigth grade levels, but, as it turned out, 42 players signed up, including 32 at the 7-8-9 levels.
Byrnes told the board he supports the creation of a second modified team for players in grades seven and eight to supplement the current modified team that will have players from grades seven through nine. With this model, the program would then have enough players to reinstitute a JV team next year, he said.
The creation of the extra team would cost about $4,500 in coaching and umpire fees, he said.
Byrnes said his elimination of the JV softball team from the 2013-14 budget was “an attempt to be [financially] responsible, and now I’m kicking myself. I made a bad prediction.” He said he will request funds to reinstitute the JV team in the 2014-15 school budget and, knowing that, it would make “no sense” not to create a second modified team now, which will help populate the JV team next year.
Byrnes warned that potential cuts of up to 12 players in the program this year could result in players moving to another sport, which could then make it impossible for the program to have three teams next year.
During the public comment period of the meeting, numerous players and parents raised similar concerns.
Senior and softball player Haley O’Brien said she was moved up to varsity during her freshman year, and she found it “really intimidating” going from modified straight varsity with no JV in the middle. Ninth grade softball player Katelyn Hale told the board she has “nowhere to go. I don’t feel I can make it to varsity,” but there will not be enough spots on a single modified team. Eighth grader Katrina Wilson said having a second modified team would “make it a little less fearful” during tryouts, knowing it’s not a varsity-or-nothing moment.
For the parents, the argument had more to do with precedent, arguing that the board has given breaks to other athletes and teams in similar circumstances.
Marge Howles, whose daughter plays softball, said the school board has made “concessions” to add extra classes and teachers to a grade level with a spike in student numbers, and they should do the same with athletic teams.
Parent Todd Wilson said there may be no money budgeted for a third softball team, but the board should “find the money” to make the addition — just like it did last year when the board “found funds” to add two assistant coach positions to the boys lacrosse team after those positions had been cut from the budget.
Parent Lori Kleine agreed. She said the lacrosse assistant coaches were reinstated for safety reasons, but softball — as well as baseball and soccer — is just as dangerous and the teams all should have paid assistants as well as an additional team.
Members of the school board were not receptive to the idea, citing the absence of funding in the budget for a third team and the danger of setting a bad precedent.
“If we do this, every team with high [player] numbers will want an extra team,” said BOE President Pat Vogl. “And how do we explain this to the basketball teams we cut a year ago?”
BOE member Karin Marris raised the same concern about fairness to previously cut programs and teams. She also said adding a team was not a fiscally responsible action to take, especially with the poor state of the district’s budget and the apparent diminution of state aid this year. “I agree,” Vogl said.
Marris said the board has told athletes in the past that if they can raise the money to pay the expenses they can have the extra team, and suggested they make the same offer to the softball program. Board members Cindy Bell Tobey and Jan Woodworth supported that idea.
In the end, the board agreed to inform the players and parents that if they can raise the $4,000 or so needed to pay for an additional modified coach, then the district will pay the $500 in umpire fees and the program can have the second modified team this year. Vogl said the board would discuss the idea again during its regular February meeting.
After the meeting, Roickle said the proposal for supporters to raise the funding to have a third team was “plausible, but I don’t think it’s fair.”
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.