Tuesday, May 9, 2017

North Nodaway Considering Switching to Volleyball in Two Years, Citing Participation Numbers

North Nodaway’s school board is considering phasing out girls softball and switching to volleyball, Superintendent James Simmelink told a group of parents, students, and board members Monday evening. The numbers do not bode well for North Nodaway. Over the last two years, there was a total of one junior high softball game played; two years ago, there were no practices. “We’ve been talking about this for the last years,” said Mr. Simmelink. The board had decided to wait and see if the figures would improve, but they didn’t.
There are currently seven sophomores on the current softball team; however, when they graduate, there may not be enough participation numbers for a softball program to continue. North Nodaway has a softball sharing agreement with West Nodaway; however, only two West Nodaway players played for North Nodaway’s softball team, while North Nodaway sent three students to West Nodaway’s volleyball team.
There were two eighth graders, four seventh graders, and two West Nodaway players on last fall’s softball team. There are 15 girls in 7th grade, but Simmelink reported most were not choosing sports.
North Nodaway’s situation is not unique to the area. Last year, Nodaway-Holt only had six girls go out for basketball; two of them did not come to school one day and the Trojans had to forfeit a game to North Nodaway. In their game against Worth County, Nodaway-Holt twice had to go to four players because one player was hurt and had to be taped up. Platte Valley is still playing the numbers game despite South Nodaway and Jefferson cooping; they barely had enough players to finish their football season last year.
The numbers will not improve themselves over the next few years. Simmelink said that there were four girls in fourth grade, five in fifth grade, and two in kindergarten. The town teams are having trouble filling teams this year; last year, some of the freshmen had to play down for the summer 14 & under team to have enough players.

Two schools, Jefferson and St. Gregory’s, have elected to allow 6th graders to play on their junior high basketball teams. However, that has its own ramifications. Such teams can compete with other MSHSAA schools, but they will be considered “unaffiliated” by the MSHSAA, meaning that the school will not be covered by MSHSAA’s catastrophic insurance plan. Such teams can coop with other schools, but only if they are also “unaffiliated.” If West Nodaway is affiliated, they cannot coop with North Nodaway if their junior high program is unaffiliated.

Another possible solution would be to have freshmen play down, which HDC schools generally do. However, they can only play on the junior high squad until the season is done and then only on the JV team. However, they can practice with both.

While most 275 schools switched from softball to volleyball in the 1980’s, North Nodaway, a powerhouse at the time with the Sederburg girls and Nicki Baldwin, elected to stay with softball. They competed in the Platte Valley Conference in softball until that conference merged with the 275. At North Nodaway, there are some students who won’t play softball, but will play volleyball, and vice versa. The big advantage of volleyball over softball is that it only requires six players, as opposed to nine for softball. MSHSAA will not allow teams to start with 8 players, unless both schools agree; if there are 8 players in a batting order, a softball team has to take an automatic out when the 9th spot comes to the plate, which really hurt South Nodaway one year before it merged with Jefferson to form Platte Valley.

Mr. Simmelink, who came from Adair-Casey in Iowa, said that Iowa does not have to choose between volleyball and softball, since one is offered in the fall and one is offered in summer. He said that there were 30-35 students out for volleyball there, enough to field a freshman, a JV, and a varsity team. There were usually 15 out for basketball and 12 out for softball; he said many girls had to choose between softball and working in the summer.

The consensus at the forum and among the board was that if North Nodaway was to phase out softball and switch to volleyball, they should do it on their own and not coop. Mr. Simmelink said there were a lot of ramifications with cooperative sports that he didn’t realize until North and West Nodaway combined their football programs. The distance can be prohibitive; for instance, North Nodaway and West Nodaway are 30 minutes away, meaning that students would not get home until 6:30 that evening. North Nodaway is also 30 minutes away from Northeast Nodaway and Worth County, two other potential coop partners.

One option is to stay the course. But then, Mr. Simmelink said that the school would have to have a drop dead date; if the team does not have nine players out for softball, then they would have to cancel their season. “It doesn’t matter what we do,” he said. “Someone is going to be left out.”

The risk of phasing out school softball is that summer softball could be phased out as well. Parents would take their kids to volleyball camps, as opposed to having them play summer softball.
Mr. Simmelink said that the board wanted to decide as soon as possible on the future of fall girls sports so that parents can make arrangements for camps and the school can find a coach if they decide to phase out softball and hire a volleyball coach. The board will make their decision at their regular meeting on May 17th at 7 pm.

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