At Casady, there has always been a tradition of multi-sport athletes, with a large number of students playing on a varsity team all three seasons. With lots of changes in the Casady athletic conference coming, many may be wondering how those athletes will manage everything and what possible adjustments may be needed. One of the more significant shifts that will come with the transition from the SPC to the OSSAA is the movement of softball from the Spring season to the Fall. While this difference may open up more playing opportunities, since Casady Softball will now play at the same time as other Oklahoma public schools, there are some possible conflicts that may arise. The fall season is already home to Girls’ Volleyball, Cross Country, and the more immediate focus of this article: Field Hockey.
I sat down with Nathan Sheldon, Casady Head of School, to discuss some of the possible challenges and practical details of the clash between Softball and Field Hockey for our female athletes. Although Field Hockey will not become a part of the OSSAA like Softball, the SPC recently made the decision to allow Field Hockey, along with Boys’ Volleyball, to remain in the conference for a two-year renewable contract. Mr. Sheldon explained how this decision came “as a bit of a surprise […] but was a real testament to the way we compete and a real testament to the way we play,” and fortunately gave us good news on the preservation of Field Hockey. Although this decision allowed for more clarity on the individual scheduling side of Field Hockey, some questions were still left unanswered for those who traditionally played fall Field Hockey and spring Softball.
While there was a possible option to switch to slow pitch Softball and keep the sports separate, Mr. Sheldon told me how “there really were not enough schools to do slow pitch, and it doesn’t necessarily build because if you want to play in college, it really is a fastpitch game.” This ultimately left the school with the question: How do we navigate four women’s sports in one season in two different conferences?
Unfortunately, Mr. Sheldon could not answer all hypotheticals, but he shared the harsh reality that student-athletes would probably “start to have to see some specialization after some time” and choose between sports. Additionally, he shared that towards the beginning of the shift, students already involved in both programs would be given the opportunity to “do both, but the classes coming up would have to make a choice.” However, on a brighter note, there does not seem to be “as much overlap with fastpitch and Volleyball as Field Hockey,” so it really is more of a single sport matter which “will create a conflict […] that I don’t love, but it is something we will get used to, and I think we can work it out.”
In addition to shedding some light on the conflict between Softball and Field Hockey, Mr. Sheldon was able to dive into the reality of OSSAA Softball itself. In regards to the level of competition, Sheldon proposed that “it may even elevate some, [as] Oklahoma is a huge Softball state.” He shared his expectations for it “to be pretty competitive [especially] depending on [which class] 2A or 3A that we end up in.” Also, Sheldon hopes for more availability of coaches with the “carousel of coaches” these last few years and is “confident that with Mr. Shepherd being on board […] and his connections to the OU Softball program […] we will no doubt have a strong Softball program moving forward.”
All this said, though, there is still a large impasse to meet with no other option than to pick Softball or Field Hockey. While Mr. Sheldon does believe “the numbers may go down for a bit […] there will be no ultimate harm to either the Softball or the Field Hockey program.” With this conflict, the question of college recruitment does come on the table, but Mr. Sheldon shared that he has no worries that either process will be affected. Once again, he believes that the numbers may even grow, especially for the Softball program, whose access to Oklahoma recruiters and teams will increase in the OSSAA.
Every change is an adjustment, but with time and faith, this shift could open many new doors for both our Casady athletes and their college careers to come.