Project by middle-school students shows there is enough support to justify start of new girls’ sport
What started as a project by two middle school students has resulted in a new athletic program at Ozaukee High School.
The Northern Ozaukee School Board agreed last week to phase-in a girls’ softball team at the high school, starting in 2017.
Megan Krause and Kylah Wheaton surveyed fellow students about their interest in starting a softball team as part of their Eighth-grade Seminar class.
Presentations were given to the board’s Student Learning and Achievement Committee, as well as the Buildings and Grounds Committee, so that the implications of the move could be considered.
Taking his lead from the students, Athletic Director Lee Baldwin took a more in-depth look at the possibility of adding the sport.
Conducting his own survey of students, Baldwin said as many as 23 girls said they would be interested in playing softball over the next four years.
After verifying that level of interest, his first inclination was to see if their was any interest from nearby school districts to allow Ozaukee girls to play on a co-op team.
All seven of the districts contacted, including Port Washington, Cedar Grove-Belgium and Random Lake, said they had no interest in forming such a joint team because there was already sufficient interest in softball to support their programs.
That response meant Ozaukee High would have to field its own team, which he said would be challenging for the next school year.
That would be especially true if the hope was to have the team compete at the varsity level in the Big East Conference.
“Umpires have been contracted with since March. The majority of conference schools have filled their non-conference schedule,” Baldwin said.
“In order to be included in the schedule, 10 of the 11 schools would have to cancel contracted games with opponents.”
Baldwin recommended the softball program start in 2016-17 with a junior varsity team that could be elevated to varsity the following year.
“For a program to succeed, the players need to see some success,” he said. “If we were to jump into a varsity program next year, it would be rough.”
Board member Dan Large, attending his first meeting, said success of a new program is not automatic.
“I am a huge supporter of extracurricular activities, but we need some assurance we can make a go of it,” Large said.
“It would create an image problem if it were to fail.”
Earlier in the year, the high school chose to suspend its baseball program because there were not enough players.
On the financial end, Baldwin said it would cost approximately $8,100 to provide uniforms and equipment for the first year of the team.
After those startup costs are covered, equipment would cost about $1,800 a year, he said.
Ongoing expenses for such things as coaches salaries, transportation and umpires would place the annual cost at about $12,600.
That would make the total anticipated cost of the softball team $14,400 a year, according to Baldwin.
The cost of the program would be considerably higher if the district chooses to develop its own softball field.
For the time being, Baldwin recommended the team play at Oak Park in the Village of Fredonia or Schowalter Park in the Village of Saukville.
Agreements would be needed with those communities to use the fields.
Officials said much of the cost of the program could be defrayed if the district is able to keep state aids that would be generated by students who choose to stay in the district because the sport is available.
Supt. Dave Karrels said he has heard the district has already lost some students to other districts because there is no softball program.