Female athletes at Portland and Deering high schools have one more sport to choose from this fall.
Both schools have added volleyball to their fall offerings to comply with federal Title IX requirements.
“When we did our Title IX audit, we found we were out of compliance for our (participation) numbers,” said Mel Craig, the athletic administrator at Deering High. “So we did a survey throughout the district and saw there was interest in adding volleyball.”
Both schools will compete on a club, or junior varsity, level this year. Both intend to play at the varsity level in the 2015-16 school year.
According to Craig, Deering High had 30 players try out for the volleyball team. Portland High had 35 girls at its first meeting, according to first-year athletic administrator Rob O’Leary.
“It’s very exciting for us to be able to expand our athletic program,” said O’Leary. “The girls seem very excited.”
Craig said it cost about $45,000 for each program to be added to the two schools.
“The major costs are all upfront,” she said. “We needed the equipment, the floors painted, the uniforms. After that it becomes a fairly affordable option to maintain year to year.”
The athletic programs at Deering and Portland underwent a Title IX audit in 2011 conducted by the federal government’s Office For Civil Rights. Among the findings were that the schools did not have adequate facilities for their softball programs at Payson Park as compared to the facilities at Hadlock Field for the baseball teams, and that the system of individual booster clubs for each sport were not accurately reporting their finances to the school, making it impossible to determine if the money was being spent equally among the boys’ and girls’ teams.
Since then, the Portland school system has gone to a single booster club system at both schools and renovations have been committed to Payson Park, including the construction of dugouts, restrooms and a scoreboard.
“It will never be Hadlock,” said Craig. “But the city and the schools are committed to major renovations at Payson Park.”
The audit also found the schools were not compliant with participation requirements, meaning the percentage of male athletes competing in sports compared to female athletes was higher than allowed by Title IX.
“We were close,” said Craig.
But Craig found support to add volleyball, which is a girls’ sport in Maine played in the fall.
“We all work very hard to be fiscally responsible,” said Craig. “It’s hard in these budget times to go to the community and ask to add another sport. But we have to be in compliance with Title IX.
“And the community, the school board and the city council definitely agreed. We were supported by everybody who could see the big picture.”
Larry Nichols is the coach of the team at Deering. Joe Russo, the Bulldogs’ boys’ basketball coach, is the coach of Portland’s team.
“He was interested,” said O’Leary. “And he was the best person for the job.”