Leveling the Playing Field

TPHS softball facilities are in need of an upgrade. They hope their Title IX claim will come to fruition next year.

Years of neglect of TPHS softball facilities are finally being addressed after team parent liaison, Kim Klekotka, filed a Title IX claim on July 6, 2020, ensuring upgraded equipment and facilities will be available by the end of the 2024 school year.

Klekotka filed the Title IX claim, which “prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or educational program,” hoping it would address inequities between the baseball and softball programs’ facilities. Instead of merely using paperwork to chronicle the battered fields, fences and absent safety precautions, Klekotka had a different idea.

“Instead of filing a normal Title IX, I went to all the schools in the North County and took pictures. It’s much harder to look at something and say it’s equal when it’s side by side,” Klekotka said.

According to varsity softball coach Jon Moore, within the last 10 years, 10 schools in Southern California have received new facilities: Canyon Crest Academy, Carlsbad High School, Rancho Buena Vista High School, Vista High School, El Camino High School, Poway High School, Del Norte High School, Mission Hills High School, San Marcos High School and Ramona High School.

After decades of witnessing firsthand the disparities between softball and baseball, Moore appreciates the administration’s effort to make a change.

“I have heard promises for new facilities from the last five principals but received little contribution, so knowing Mr. Coppo is being supportive of the softball program and our needs is very nice,” Moore said.

With help from administration, along with the Title IX and Equity Coordinator Laura Strachan, players in the 2025 season should expect to play on a new Astroturf outfield on a permanently fenced field.

“The field next to the weight room was upgraded about five or six years ago, but it was unlevel and effectively unusable, so I’ve been fighting for years to get that turfed,” Coppo said.

As action on the claim finally started last year with new softball bullpens, players like Ava Fagin (11) and Hadley Nishnick (11) are optimistic about the future of the softball program.

“The softball team is not very well-respected, and we’re kind of thrown to the side compared to other sports. It does feel really good to be able to move in the right direction,” Fagin said.

Looking back, Nishnick recalled a time when playing on the softball fields was not only unsafe with its overgrown grass and holes, but tiring, as the athletes would have to “dedicate a whole practice day every season to put up the temporary fence and then take it down at the end of the season,” according to Nishnick.

Even more, when visitors come to watch games, Klekotka has had to warn them of dangerous places where they may get hit by foul balls because of the lack of fencing and netting.

“The girls are pitching at 65 miles per hour, so if you’re not paying attention, you can get killed,” Klekotka said. “I would say we get 15 to 20 foul balls hit out every single game … and we’ve had some very close calls.”

With new equipment and facilities being improved, including a more level outfield and fencing, there is increasing hope that the softball field will be as well-regarded as the baseball field.

Despite all the deficits in facilities softball players have had to face in the past, both Fagin and Nishnick look forward to a brighter future.

Fagin, who has been on the team since her freshman year, is elated that the changes will positively impact her team.

“Girls deserve to be treated 100% the same, to be looked at the same, like they can be successful,” Fagin said. “Title IX is all about gender equality and what this means for empowering women. It’s about being able to say that just because you’re a guy doesn’t mean anything; if I can beat you in a race, I will beat you in a race.”

Although she is no longer affiliated with the process, Klekotka still has a message she hopes will resound in the ears of those fighting for equality in every way.

“At the end of the day, when the girls are walking on the field, I want them to feel like they’re just as important as boys, men and everyone else in between,” she said. “That is how every woman should be allowed to feel… I’m hopeful that the changes being made with the claim will ensure that in the future.”

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