Beginning in 2013, Missouri softball teams can chose to play their championship series in the fall or spring. The current format has playoffs in the fall only.

Houston High School athletes will no longer have to chose between softball and volleyball. They can soon play both.

Following voting by member schools of the Missouri State High School Activities Association, schools will have the option to compete in softball state championship series in the fall or spring beginning next year. It’s a radical change from the current system that only offers state playoffs in the fall.

For smaller schools like Houston, the opportunity to play in the spring will allow athletes to play both softball and volleyball instead of choosing between the two.

For instance, next year’s freshman class has eight girls who play both sports. Two have said they plan to play softball in 2013 and the rest will play volleyball. Beginning in 2014 –– when Athletic Director Brent Kell said HHS hopes to make the transition to spring softball with board approval –– those girls can play both sports.

“For our school and program, I think this needs to happen,” HHS softball coach Brent Hall said. “I know there have been girls that if it wasn’t for volleyball, they would have played softball and helped us out. We will definitely have better teams because the best athletes will be out there.”

After initial discussions with school districts in previous years, MSHSAA presented the spring championship series option on its annual ballot as an amendment to the constitution and bylaws. It barely received the required majority vote with a 214-205 tally.

Jason West, MSHSAA communications director, said there were no discussions to move the entire softball season to the spring or even move classes, conferences or districts.

“The decision is based strictly on the individual school,” he said.

Schools have until August to register for the 2013 spring season. Kell said he considered making the move this year. But after visiting with area schools, he realized scheduling opponents would be difficult. He said most schools who are switching seasons plan to make the transition in 2014.

Although switching seasons allows athletes to participate in another sport, there are potential drawbacks for Houston’s move:

Unless at least 129 schools register to play spring softball, there will a single, open class. That could potentially pit smaller schools against much larger ones.

“It was a discussion point,” West said. “If there is a major change from fall to spring, it will happen in mass and not just one or two schools. We don’t really foresee a St. Louis school like Parkway Central playing smaller schools like Cooter or Clearwater.

-The change will likely eliminate the South Central Association conference. Kell said Salem and Liberty have said they will continue playing in the fall only. They were concerned about losing members of their successful track programs to spring softball. Ava is undecided.

-The softball team will need a new coach. Hall, who guided the program to its first-ever district championship in 2012, said he will remain with the baseball program.

“I hate to let softball go, but I’m a baseball coach,” he said. “It’s my passion and why I became a coach.”

Kell said he has a plan in place for Hall’s potential replacement but did not go into specifics. Hall’s assistant softball coach, Ryan Munson, is also his assistant with the baseball team.

Despite any drawbacks, Kell said the move to the spring is the right one for the school.

“The positives outweigh the negatives by far,” Kell said. “What’s best for our kids is them being able to play both sports.”

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