The attached interview is from SDPB’s daily public affairs program, In the moment.
High school-sanctioned softball will be a spring sport in South Dakota, starting next school year. On Wednesday, the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s board of directors unanimously adopted a recommendation from its executive staff that the sport be held in the spring.
“It went 9-0 and there wasn’t a lot of talk. I think [the board] appreciated the work that had been done in the process and I think they were all leaning in that direction,” said SDHSAA Deputy Executive Director Jo Auch. “I think we all knew spring was the best time based on how many sports we have in the fall for girls and spring for girls.”
There are currently six women’s sports in the fall, while only three in the spring. However, there was still debate, especially among some of the larger schools in the state, that fall was the way to go. Of the nineteen AA schools, based on a vote among athletic directors, ten were in favor of a spring season, while nine wanted it in the fall. Yesterday, the four public schools in Sioux Falls changed their vote for spring.
“They had visited some of the colleges and clubs around and said yes, we really think spring will be the best for us as well and we could make it work,” Auch explained. “It made the board meeting a bit easier, although nothing changed on my end regarding the AA vote.”
South Dakota officially sanctioned softball at the November board meeting. They were the last union state to sanction the sport. A total of forty-five states nationwide now have their high school softball season in the spring, while only four have a fall season. Iowa is the only state that has its softball season in the summer.
Track and field is another spring sport in which many children participate. Auch believes that if a student-athlete wants to do both track and field and softball, they should be able to make it work.
“I certainly hope the athletes don’t say ‘well now I’m not going to compete in track and field, because we have softball, and I’m not going to compete in softball, because I’m in track and field.’ Hopefully, as we will in the fall, the coaches will work together to try to make sure the athletes can really choose and do both if they choose to,” Auch explained.
It is not currently known how many schools will participate in the inaugural spring 2023 season, but it will more than likely consist of two classes. While the hope right now is for 35-40 teams, it’s a sport the SDHSAA expects to see grow once things get started.
“I’m super excited that we finally have the opportunity for girls to compete for a state title in softball,” Auch said. “It’s been a long time coming, and I’m super excited for the kids in South Dakota to finally have the opportunity to do it.”
Teams and classifications will likely be discussed and voted on at the next board meeting in March. As it currently stands for 2023, the first authorized softball practices will take place right after the boys’ state basketball tournaments in March, with the state softball tournaments scheduled for early June.