Softball leads off without women’s league
Leslie Saxe was skiing at Alpine Meadows in April when she heard the news from a Pink Panthers teammate ” there wouldn’t be a women’s softball league this summer. There wasn’t enough interest.
“I didn’t believe it,” Saxe, who’s played for the Panthers for eight years, said. “Summer softball is one of those things you just count on, like sailing in the summer.”
But Saxe’s teammate was right. This summer, for the first time in more than two decades, a competitive women’s softball league will not exist on the North Shore. League organizers in Truckee and Tahoe City attribute the league’s demise to shifting demographics, saying more young people prefer playing co-ed ball.
“That’s a national trend,” said Dan O’Gorman, recreation superintendent for the Truckee Public Utility District. “There’s less leisure time now, so more people want to get out with their significant other.”
That comes as little consolation for players like Saxe.
“I always thought my daughters would play for the Panthers, even though they’re two and four,” she said. “The teams have been around forever and I thought they always would be.”
The change does not surprise O’Gorman, who’s witnessed a steady drop in participation throughout the women’s league for more than a decade. When he first came to the area 18-years ago, there were 12 teams in Truckee alone. But a lack of interest forced the Truckee and Tahoe City leagues to combine 10 years ago.
“It’s been slowly going down for a long time,” O’Gorman said, adding that trend is not exclusive to women. Men’s teams fell from 28 in Truckee last year to 20.
The problem is even worse in Tahoe City, recreation director Pete Kristian said. Last year, there were more than 40 teams spread across co-ed, men’s and women’s leagues, but this year that number dropped to 30.
“Families are getting priced out of living here,” Kristian said. “Younger people are not coming into the area and participating. I wonder what kind of community we’ll have as time goes on.”
O’Gorman is organizing a meeting at the Truckee recreation center on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. for female players interested in a final attempt to salvage the women’s league.
“I don’t know if it’s a lack of interested players or sponsors or organizers,” he said. “It seems that nobody’s wanted to take the bull by the horns and organize a team. If we can pull it off, we may do an abbreviated season this year.”
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.