KINGSFORD - As an answer to the dreams of many girls attending the Breitung Township Schools, softball has been added as a varsity sport and will start this spring.
It's been a topic, along with boys baseball, that has been brought before the school board on several occasions. And on Monday night, the Breitung Schools Board of Education unanimously agreed to follow the athletic committee's recommendation and add girls softball to the ranks of other varsity sports at Kingsford High School.
Board President Charlie Novara reported on the athletic committee meeting noting that they had an in depth discussion about adding this sport. Attending the meeting were also Rob Plemel and Kevin Murdock, who have been advocates of the sport for many years.
"The committee has looked at requests for adding this sport during the last couple of years. It is a growing sport in the U.P. with 18 schools having it as a MSHAA varsity sport. But we have serious budget constraints and we aren't willing to increase expenditures in the budget. We don't want to do this since we are looking for a strategic plan in the near future to reduce the amount of transfers from the general budget to the athletic fund," Novara said.
Board member Doug McDowell pointed out that the transfer made to the athletic fund is less than two percent of the district's budget.
"And the benefit that the district gets from this miniscule amount of money is great for the kids and the school," he said. "I support all athletics."
Novara noted that the recommendation from the athletic committee to add girls softball means that it must meet the criteria set up to add the sport. They had discussed the probability of this sport negatively impacting existing spring sports and felt that the club team already in place hasn't really impacted other sports.
Criteria for adding the sport includes that it is contingent on:
- Running as a pilot for a three year period with an evaluation after each season. During the pilot period, there will be no adding a junior varsity or other team to the program.
- Funding will come totally from outside the district and follow the district's fund-raising policy.
- Creating a budget to cover expenses so it doesn't yield additional costs to the district.
- Follow all school and MSHAA rules for the sport.
- Coaching will be voluntary for the pilot period.
- LoDal Park will be secured as the home field.
"This is a plus for the girls of this district to have this sport added. I'm thrilled to see this sport added to our school," Novara said.
Board members noted that the expected costs a year for the sport are approximately $5,000.
In November 2010, the Michigan High School Athletic Association issued a decision that the school districts of Iron Mountain and Breitung Township could not co-op the sports of girls softball and boys baseball. The MHSAA said that the two districts were too big to co-op these sports.
The idea of co-oping was presented as a way for both districts to offer these two sports to the students in the school districts. The schools currently co-op a number of sports including hockey, cross country, swimming, skiing and bowling.
Interest in both softball and baseball has been high and a group of people in the community had approached both school boards about adding the sports.
In the process of adding sports, neither district felt that they had money in their budgets to add both sports. At that time, Breitung Township was looking to handle the girls softball and Iron Mountain would handle the boys baseball.
Last spring, the Norway-Vulcan Area School District fielded its first varsity girls softball team.