If nobody speaks up, nothing changes. That seems to have been the case within the girls softball program run through the Sheridan Recreation District in recent years.
While boys who play tee ball take to a baseball field with dugouts, a backstop and dirt, girls of the same age are relegated to the grass field at Dan Madia Field. Older girls do get to play on real fields, but they have to play in the grass to get there.
Only about 100 girls participate in softball compared to the 300-400 who compete in baseball. Until this year, it seems, parents, coaches and the girls “settled” for the circumstances. This year, though, parents and coaches have spoken out.
The Press discussed the parents’ and coaches’ concerns in a July 7 article. The response has been strong. The article has been shared repeatedly and SRD staff has said they’ve received phone calls about the situation.
Responses have ranged from attempts to justify the situation to outright disappointment.
SRD’s executive director, Richard Wright, has said the fields at Dan Madia are smaller, cooler to play on in the summer and the ball doesn’t travel as fast in the grass. Girls can’t handle dirt, heat or a hard-hit ball? But the boys can?
In addition, Wright said the fields at Sixth Street aren’t designed for softball. Yet, the older girls play there without issues and enjoy it.
A program manager at SRD, Colton Thompson, offered plans for future adjustments to make the programs increasingly fair. Wright said SRD would approach the girls’ parents to contribute financially to the creation of a dedicated softball field on the north side of town — a project unlikely to happen quickly. Doubleday Park — a planned baseball complex for the north side of Sheridan — has been talked about for years. Fixes should be put in place now.
It may seem like an overreaction to some. If the situation is teaching the girls that they are less important, we are also teaching the young boys that girls are less important. That does not create a future of equal opportunities for our youth.