By John Clayton
The PIAA's decision to shift girls' soccer to the fall in 2010 is still less than a week old, and as such it's too early to gauge the true effect the move will have on female athletics in the area.
Most of the coverage so far, including this story in Wednesday's Daily Record, has focused on the hardship the move will cause for female athletes who play soccer and another fall sport, such as field hockey or volleyball. But as you all know, there are two sides to every story.
Today, I got a phone call from Roger Miller, the softball coach at York Suburban. He understood the hesitation on the part of some athletes and administrators, but he wanted to add that for coaches of spring sports like softball or track, the PIAA's move could be a huge boon.
"I read all the complaints, but I do think there's another side to the story," Miller said. "I know (soccer in the fall) really hurt my softball program, because at Suburban we have a good soccer program, so lots of times I would try to recruit those players to no avail.
"I'm thrilled, because I'm sure I'll get a few players that would otherwise play soccer."
Suburban's girls' soccer team went 10-7-1 last year. Miller's softball team, meanwhile, went 0-13, and Miller said he's often had trouble finding enough girls to field a J.V. team.
"It used to really bother me because up on those soccer fields they used to end up cutting players, and I'm struggling to support two teams," he said. "So I'm thrilled with the news."
Such is the give and take that comes with a move like this. Some sports will suffer. But by the same token, some will prosper. Softball, track and (at certain schools) lacrosse will now be the girls' sports in the spring starting in 2010-2011. That's compared to the five girls' sports that will play in the fall (soccer, field hockey, volleyball, tennis and cross country).
Miller speculated the emergence of lacrosse was a big factor behind the PIAA's decision. Perhaps this shift will open the door for that sport to make inroads in the area. Perhaps the boosting of lacrosse and softball will offset any watering down of girls' soccer or field hockey.
Or maybe not. Only time will tell.