PIERRE — The first-ever girls’ softball tournament sanctioned by the South Dakota High School Activities Association will take place June 1-3 next year in Aberdeen.
At the SDHSAA board meeting on Thursday, assistant executive director Jo Auch said the tournament would be held at Northern State University. She told the board that the first tournament would include all three classes at the same site.
“They’ve got a beautiful facility,” Auch said of the softball fields at Northern. She noted that the only drawback is a lack of lights which may limit the number of championship games that can be played at the main field. There are 55 schools signed up to offer the newly sanctioned sport with teams to be split into AA, A and B classifications.
Northern State’s new softball stadium, Koehler Hall of Fame Field, opened in fall 2021 and has a full artificial turf surface, plus in-ground dugouts, home and away bullpens and batting cages, chairback seating, and a media/suite area directly behind home plate.
SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos said that the staff will analyze how the tournament plays out using just one site. Subsequent tournaments could be held at three sites in three communities, he said.
Each classification will offer an eight-team field for the tournament.
“Having everybody in the same city is going to be pretty special,” Auch said.
Choosing a site for a state tournament is usually the responsibility of the association’s site selection committee. Because girls’ softball is a new sport, Auch vetted facilities in Vermillion, Brookings and Rapid City before settling on Aberdeen.
At Thursday’s meeting SDHSAA Board Chairman Mark Murphy of Aberdeen appointed new members to the site selection committee for the 2022-23 school year. The committee will be chaired by board member Kelly Messmer of Harding County. Other board members on the committee are Jeff Danielsen of Watertown and Barry Mann of Wakpala.
The committee also includes five activities directors: Casey Meile of Sioux Falls Public Schools, Jared Vasquez of Rapid City Area Schools, Dawn Seiler of Aberdeen Central, Terry Rotert of Huron and Mike Jewett of Brookings.
After discussing the need for better sportsmanship in high school athletics at its past meetings, on Thursday the SDHSAA board of directors made increased sportsmanship one of its goals for the coming school year.
According to SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos, the yearlong study will include looking at fan, coach and player behavior and try to formalize consequences for poor sportsmanship.
Guidance from the association could help local school administrators when they try to deal with unruly fans or undisciplined coaches and players, said board chairman Mark Murphy of Aberdeen.
Trying to figure out when to step in and ask a rowdy fan to leave is a tough call for administrators, said Jeff Danielsen of Watertown. “What’s the threshold for unruly behavior?” he asked.
“If we make a concerted effort, it’s going to make a big difference,” said board member Tom Culver of Avon.
Swartos said he sat at the scorer’s table at a basketball game and couldn’t believe some of the comments coming from the stands. Fans weren’t hesitant about screaming “out something about the official’s mother.”
Another goal is setting up a calendar committee that will study when state events are held. The last calendar committee did its work in the 2015-16 school year.
There will also be a committee established to look at the association’s system for classifying schools. Currently the membership numbers that determine classifications may change from sport to sport. The committee will study the feasibility of aligning the membership numbers across sports.
Some of the board’s goals were held over from the last school year. One is to continue to study management fees and revenue sources for member schools. Swartos said the board had considered studying a bid system that communities would use if they wanted to host state tournaments. Instead of a bid system, in the coming year the board will conduct an economic impact statement that will tally the funds that state events bring into communities. Swartos said the study may entice communities to offer better hotel rates or restaurant discounts.
The board will study the implementation of new sports. The study of E-sports will continue. Swartos noted that a resolution in the Legislature called on the association to consider sanctioning baseball. A formal procedure for studying a new sport will be considered.
The recruiting of officials will be a goal again in the new school year. Swartos said the board would study placing curriculum in high schools so that students could be trained to officiate lower level games.
Two goals from last year were accomplished. The hardship appeals process was changed and a free and reduced lunch count will be used to modify school membership totals when it comes to deciding classifications starting in the 2024 classification cycle.