Softball is a little bit closer to becoming an athletic event in Casper schools after a committee from the Natrona County school board recommended the full body throw its support behind the effort, which has been pronounced here and in communities across Wyoming.
The effort to have state officials sanction the sport has been underway for six months. As a result, several districts — Campbell, Laramie 1, both Sweetwater 1 and 2, Park’s 1 and 6 — have expressed interest, some with multiple high schools. In Casper, softball coaches, players and parents have packed school board meetings to urge the nine trustees to consider supporting the broader effort. Even before they came, the district here was researching the possibility.
Eight high schools are required for a sport to be sanctioned here, according to the Wyoming High School Activities Association. Walt Wilcox, Natrona County School District’s associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said that 12 high schools outside of Casper have expressed interest.
Last week, Wilcox walked the board’s academic steering committee through a survey of Casper middle and high school girls. Of the 1,446 female students surveyed, 713 said they would participate in softball. The sport was by far the most desired for female students who wanted girls to have another sport option (with the recent loss of gymnastics, boys have one more sport than girls).
Of the students surveyed who currently weren’t playing a sport in the spring — when the softball season would theoretically be held — more than half said they would play softball.
The district’s work included a cost analysis for what it would cost to bring the sport to Casper’s two big high schools, Kelly Walsh and Natrona County. In all, it would cost around $96,359 to start the programs, assuming a varsity and junior varsity squad at both schools.
The academic steering committee decided to support the softball effort and send the proposal to ask the state to “put us on the list” of districts that would have teams, as Superintendent Steve Hopkins put it, to a full vote before the board on April 8.
At the full board meeting a few hours after the academic steering committee decided to send , another wave of softball supporters filled the seats. Typically, the board hears public comment first before going into its agenda. Sensing that much of the input from the public would be about softball, the board asked Wilcox to come up again and explain to the audience where the district was in considering adding the sport.
Wilcox called the survey results “very strong” and said the numbers showed the support was there.
“Well, just to boil that down, we’re looking to support these girls, right?” board member Kevin Christopherson asked Wilcox after the administrator finished his rundown.
Wilcox replied that the full board would vote in early April to support the push to have softball be sanctioned by the activities association. Rita Walsh, the board’s chairwoman, added that academic steering had supported it.
Christopherson told the crowd that Natrona County would be supporting it, and if Natrona County is, other districts would, too.