Sanctioned high school softball will be a spring sport in South Dakota, beginning next school year. On Wednesday, the board of directors for the South Dakota High School Activities Association unanimously passed a recommendation from its executive staff to have the sport take place in the spring.
“It passed 9-0 and there wasn’t a lot of discussion. I think [the board] appreciated the work that had been done in the process and I think they all were leaning that direction,” SDHSAA assistant executive director Jo Auch stated. “I think we all knew that spring was the best time based on the number of sports that we have in the fall for girls and spring for the girls.”
There are currently six girls’ sports in the fall, while only three in the spring. However, there still was some debate, especially amongst some of the bigger schools in the state, that fall was the way to go. Among the nineteen AA schools, based on a vote amongst the athletic directors, ten were in favor of a spring season, while nine wanted it in the fall. Yesterday, the four Sioux Falls public schools changed their vote to spring.
“They had visited with some of the colleges and the club areas around, and said yeah, we really feel that spring is going to be the best for us as well and that we could make that work,” explained Auch. “That made going into the board meeting a little easier, although, nothing changed on my end as it pertains to the AA vote.”
South Dakota officially sanctioned softball at their November board meeting. They were the last state in the union to sanction the sport. In total, forty-five states in the nation now have their high school softball season in the spring, while just four have a fall season. Iowa is the lone state who does their softball season in the summer.
Track and Field is another spring sport that consists of a lot of kids. Auch believes that if a student-athlete wants to do both track and softball, they should be able to make it work.
“I certainly hope that athletes don’t say ‘well now I’m not going to participate in track, because we have softball, and I’m not going to compete in softball, because I’m in track.’ I would hope that, just what we do in the fall, coaches will work with one another to try and make sure that athletes can truly choose and do both if they choose to do so,” explained Auch.
It’s currently unclear on how many schools will participate in the inaugural 2023 spring season, but it’ll more than likely consist of two classes. While the hope right now is for 35-40 teams, it’s a sport that the SDHSAA expects to see grow once things get underway.
“I’m super excited that we finally have the opportunity for girls to compete for a state title in softball,” said Auch. “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 that.”
Teams and classifications will likely be discussed and voted upon at the next board of directors meeting in March. As it sits right now for 2023, the first allowed softball practices will take place right after the boys state basketball tournaments in March with the state softball tournaments slated for early June.