High School Sports

High School Sports

Ice: Move softball to fall

May 31, 2011


His team didn’t advance to the Class 6A state tournament at Arrocha Ballpark, but Free State softball coach Lee Ice’s school was the host of the two-day event that concluded Saturday, so as long as he was there, he talked up an interesting idea.

Ice and many other softball coaches from large Kansas high schools would like to see the sport played in the fall, as Missouri and Nebraska do, instead of the spring.

The thinking: Softball loses more athletes to soccer than it would to volleyball, tennis and gymnastics. Plus, such a shift would give softball players more opportunity to play games in the spring/summer leagues not affiliated with school.

“Our kids don’t start until Memorial Day weekend or after and are done by the Fourth of July,” said Ice, who recently finished his second season as the Firebirds’ softball coach.

Ice sees a few other benefits to the move. First, some umpires work both sports, and if they were played in different seasons, the best umps would get more work, and the less talented ones wouldn’t work as many high school games.

Another benefit: College softball coaches would have more time to get out to see recruits in the fall than in the spring. As it is, Missouri and Nebraska softball players not only get to play more games (aside from school) and therefore develop more skill, they get more exposure, putting them at an advantage in the hunt for scholarship dollars and roster spots.

Softball state championships have a better shot at good weather now than in November, but for the regular season, rainouts would decrease in the fall.

Small schools, some of which don’t have soccer teams, might not like the idea, Ice said, because they would want their top athletes to be able to play both volleyball and softball.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association hasn’t officially been approached about it, and, Ice said, “It would take an act of Congress, almost, to make a major change like this.”

Regardless of when it’s played, Ice, a former Kansas University baseball player and Kansas City Royals minor leaguer who played third base alongside shortstop Buddy Biancalana, likes the sport of softball.

“It’s so much like baseball used to be played,” Ice said. “Short game. Get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in, 1-0, 2-0. The game’s the same, but the kids are a little bit different. Not as many girls grow up watching the game like boys do, so a lot of girls don’t play the game instinctively, and you have to teach them things you don’t have to teach boys. There are lot of tremendous athletes playing softball. Great arm strength, they can run and have great bat speed, but instinctively, they don’t know how to play the game as well.”

As is the case with many well-meaning high school coaches, Ice preaches that athletes shouldn’t treat sports as a life-or-death situation, do your best, but it’s just a game, yada, yada, yada. Then his team loses, and he feels as if he has been run over by a truck.

“Girls get over things a lot quicker than boys,” Ice said. “Sometimes we’ll get on the bus, and you can’t tell if they won or lost. My assistants and I have a tough time handling that, but the girls do practice what we preach.”


Nikki May 6 years, 10 months ago

I have to agree for the most part on the instincts thing. I watch my son's 9u group play and a lot of those boys are making plays that just come to them. (On the other hand, you can tell which watch pros because sometimes they try to be flashy and throw their hands to the ground at the last possible second to make a play, to look good.) My daughter's 14u team though some of them are such amazing athletes but you have to remind them some things that the boys just know. Not all of them of course. We talk about "baseball brain". My daughter has it, and you can often hear her and a couple of the others yelling, "don't throw" and things like that.

I know a tangent from this article. But we really should remember that our girls can be athletes too.

But, I agree with Lee. Move it opposite of soccer. If neighboring states do it, it can only help our girls get better. Of course, I'm such a softball fan, we could ask Lee to just make a fall city league. ;)

Shelley Bock 6 years, 10 months ago

I really didn't know many of the girls who play soccer also play softball. I do know that all varsity players and nearly all junior varsity players at Free State during this past year played club soccer during the fall. I don't know which players would have played softball instead of playing club soccer.

To my knowledge there was more competition with track for soccer players.

Varsity squads for volleyball generally have between 8 - 10 players. Other squads are modestly larger. The varsity spccer squad at Free State had 22 players, JV slightly less. There was also a C team. Overall, there were over 50 players out for soccer.

I'm all for more participation, but just don't upset soccer, please.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 10 months ago

I don't see any girls leaving one sport for the other, if they are playing on club teams. Sounds like the coach was trying to say he didn't have well qualified players, which he did. All but two of the varsity players play on club teams, and are all excellent players, so maybe the coaching was the problem. Girls do play the game as well as boys and some 'are' instinctive! Maybe the coach should be coaching boys. I don't know.

fuzzynavel 6 years, 10 months ago

I have to agree with sunny, the coaching was the problem. I have seen a lot of softball in my days, and until this year i have never seen a coach give up on a group of girls like the varsity coach at Free State. It was also a shame the way and language he used to talk to his players. So yes he should be doing Baseball and NOT Softball because they are two different sports and games.

fuzzynavel 6 years, 10 months ago

I have to agree with sunny, the coaching was the problem. I have seen a lot of softball in my days, and until this year i have never seen a coach give up on a group of girls like the varsity coach at Free State. It was also a shame the way and language he used to talk to his players. So yes he should be doing Baseball and NOT Softball because they are two different sports and games.

qwert 6 years, 10 months ago

jumping on the bandwagon.... I appreciate tremendously what Lee Ice as a person has done for the community of Lawrence and Youth sports in general.... but not what Lee Ice the coach has done to the young adult females who have had to suffer under his coaching style these first 2 years. He needs to take some tips from his JV coach Seratte on the 'How To' coach girls. Seratte knows how to get the most out of HIS girls. FIRM and FAIR. The female athlete needs to have their expectations managed appropriately. It’s simple, do what you tell them you are going to do. If you change your mind, follow up with them and tell them why. It baffles me that Ice has a daughter who played this sport (graduated) and he treats the girls like he does. It's no accident that there was only one active Senior playing on Varsity at the end of the season. His lack of expectation management and his ‘quitting’ on the girls when they are loosing burns them out and they don't want to play for him. He should stop trying to coach females the same as males. I anticipate that his results will continue to be mediocre in the future. In a perfect world, Ice would coach boys baseball and Seratte would be the head Varsity softball coach.

BTW… I agree that in Kansas (like Missouri) Softball should be played in the fall so that the girls can gain more experience playing with their traveling teams during the Spring/Summer and their School teams in the fall.

Ken Miller 6 years, 10 months ago

The bottom line is that only time will tell whether Coach Ice's approach will result in success, mediocrity or failure. He has been there for two years and two years does not serve as a large enough sample size to start calling FSHS Softball a dynasty or a dump. It's his program and he will run it the way he sees fit.

My name is Ken Miller and I'll only add this: I think it will be difficult for the Free State varsity softball team to succeed (read: go to State consistently and do damage) when a higher premium is placed by the coach on a player's loyalty to softball as opposed to finding and coaching up the most talented women athletes available in the spring, even if their club (non-softball) sport sometimes conflicts with the spring softball schedule.

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