In North Carolina, high school softball programs often rival their counterparts in football and baseball. However, respect for the sport doesnt match its popularity.
That was evident this month at the state championship, which the N.C. High School Athletic Assocation hosted at the Walnut Creek complex in Raleigh.
Instead of playing on a field with a fence at 200 feet, the eight teams were notified that they would be playing on a field with 300-foot fences. This does not come close to meeting NCHSAAs own recommendations of fence depths of 185 to 235 feet.
Under pressure from schools, coaches, athletic directors and parents to fix the situation, NCHSAA installed 4-foot-high temporary fences at the correct distance. These were dangerous and still did not meet the high school requirements of a minimum height of 6-foot fences.
The first two games of the tournament started at 7 p.m., and the other two at 8 p.m., which made for a long day for students who had had to take state-mandated exams that morning and travel to Raleigh during the day. Most athletes arrived back at hotels at midnight then had to be on the road at 8 the next morning to play in 11 a.m. games. Having the final game at 2 p.m. turned out to be a fiasco when the NCHSAA required the complex to be emptied except for teams all so it could collect another admission fee. This accounted for an hour and 15-minute delay, with the game not ending until 5 p.m. The athletes were exhausted because they had had no time to eat because of the haste of the NCHSAA to get the series over with.
The facilities not only did not meet the NCHSAA regulations for play, there also was not enough seating, concessions or bathrooms. The players did not have batting cages to warm up in as they do at their home facilities, nor did they have warm-up areas for pitchers or dressing areas. These female athletes had to dress and undress on buses in the parking lot.
The Baseball High School State Championships, on the other hand, were held in semi-pro and college stadiums and had all of the accommodations necessary for the event to be special and rewarding.
This is unacceptable. Our girls spend countless hours practicing and playing on travel teams to achieve this level of competitiveness, but it doesnt matter. This should have been a great memory for the girls, but it was only a disappointment because softball clearly doesnt matter.
Because the NCHSAA is a members-only organization, the public and parents have no voice. I encourage the NCHSAA to look into the issues, stop the bureaucracy, respect the athletes and give female sports an equal playing field.
Monica Worley lives in Clarkton.