After qualifying for the Northern Section playoffs, the Portola High School softball team did not participate in the postseason due to a conflict with a school concert scheduled for the same time as the playoff match.
As the seventh seed in Division V, the Portola Tigers would have traveled to play second-seeded Etna Tuesday, May 18, the same day as the Portola High School spring concert.
Five girls on the softball team were also committed to being in the concert.
With just 12 girls on Portola’s softball roster, the team needed every player to compete. Likewise, the music program needed all the students for its performance, as the softball girls covered key instruments and solos.
Cassidy Ledwig, the captain of Portola’s softball team and the only senior on the squad, is also the first clarinetist in the band.
“It was we girls who figured it out,” said Ledwig, explaining they were at softball practice and were shocked when they heard the date of the playoff game.
The scheduling conflict occurred because the potential playoff game was not on the master calendar in the administrative office.
“It was an unfortunate situation,” said Portola principal Kristy Warren. “It should not have happened. We have taken steps so it will never happen again.”
Once the school became aware of the conflict, Warren met Thursday morning, May 13, with softball coach Karl Popish to see if there was any way the situation could be fixed.
Compounding the problem was that if Portola was placed into the playoff brackets but then couldn’t field a team, the team would be ineligible for next year’s playoffs.
On the other side of the problem was the longstanding policy that if any students missed the concert, they would automatically be dropped one letter grade.
Initially, the school hoped the students could participate in the game Tuesday afternoon and the concert Tuesday evening, but when the game was scheduled to be played in Etna, which is five hours away, it was no longer an option to do both on Tuesday.
The school also explored the option of moving the date of the concert, which band teacher Gary Klivans was willing to do, but the administration chose not to.
“Ultimately, it was my decision not to move the concert,” said Warren. “There were a number of other students and families affected by it.”
Warren went on to explain that there was no clear date for when to reschedule the concert, because things were tight with other events.
“My hope was that both events would happen,” said Warren. “We could let the girls decide which way they wanted to go.”
Warren said that it’s nice that students can do so much at a small school, but at times there are conflicts. Athletes often have to put their sport before academics, but this situation magnified the issue.
“It was a pretty hefty commitment either way,” said Ledwig. “It was horrible. All of us were in tears at lunch. Which team do you let down; which do you choose?”
Ledwig explained that at this point, Popish made the decision to not participate in the playoffs.
“He really cares about us and didn’t want us to be dropped a letter grade,” said Ledwig.
Concerning that policy, Ledwig said Klivans had to enforce it, because “it wouldn’t be fair for him not to.”
After offering to move the date of the concert, Klivans was unaware of the softball team’s decision to forego the playoffs.
“I was devastated,” said Klivans. “I tried to do everything I could to get it changed back.”
Once it was official that the softball team would not participate in the playoffs, some of the other softball parents grew angry.
“Several parents are furious and are writing letters,” said Mark Olson, the father of one of the softball players. “Several parents are afraid to (write letters), because they’re afraid of the administration. There are a lot of upset parents on the matter.”
Klivans said the seven softball players out of the loop were seeing things through emotion, but the five softball players also in band acted maturely and had been wonderful.
“I felt like a scapegoat,” said Klivans. “The girls were not pressured or forced to do anything by the music program.”
Warren agreed. “The coach and the teacher were doing their best not to pressure or coerce anyone,” she said.
By all accounts, Klivans and Popish felt terrible about the situation and just wanted what was best for the girls.
“Our teacher and coach were willing to compromise and fix it, but the administration was not willing to let that happen,” said Ledwig.
“There was no forfeit,” said Warren. “We chose not to go to the playoffs. It was not counted as a loss.”
Portola made its decision within the timeframe needed by the California Interscholastic Federation to enter a different team into the playoff brackets, so Portola is fully eligible for next year’s postseason.
The Etna Lions, who Portola would have faced in the first round, went on to win all three of their playoff games and capture the Northern Section championship for the second straight year.
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