Keeping the ball in play
Somewhere in Stevens County, a dog is playing with a tennis ball once used for a Tiger tennis match. Worn out tennis balls are given to people who may ask to use them for their dogs or a batting cage, said Bennett Lerud, the head girls tennis coach for Morris Area / Chokio-Alberta / West Central Area.
For most fall prep sports, without the ball, there is no game. The lifespan of a tennis ball, football or volleyball is often seasonal. Sometimes they get a new life after the sports season is over such as being tossed to a dog in play or they may get relegated to practice play or in some cases, they are too worn for any other use.
Morris Area and Hancock schools buy new game and practice balls needed for each fall sport.
As most all fall sports seasons have ended, take a look at what it took to get the needed game and practice balls into play.Football
For football, the Tigers buy five new game balls at $78.99 each along with five practice balls, said Morris Area athletic director Mark Ekren.
The Owls get anywhere from six to eight new footballs every year, head football coach and athletic director Chad Christianson said.
“On average one of our game balls will last about two games,” Christianson said. “If the weather was bad it might only last one game and if conditions have been good it may last for four games. We make sure we have two or three ready for each game in case they are needed. For game day, I normally have the QB pick out his two favorite balls for the night and those are the two that we go with.”
Per the official Minnesota State High School League bylaws for football, the official tournament ball is the Spalding Alpha.
“Teams are encouraged to use [the Spalding Alpha] during the regular season, but it’s not required,” said Christianson.
Both Hancock and Morris/C-A use the Wilson GST football.Volleyball
Volleyballs aren’t exposed to the outside elements, so the balls last longer. The MSHSL official tournament ball is the Baden Perfection, which runs $55.65 per ball, Ekren said.
Morris Area purchases three new game balls and 12 practice balls for every Tiger volleyball season, Ekren said.
Hancock head coach Steph Flaten said the Owls get two new balls every year, and “New game balls are never used during practice.”
“The home team supplies warm up balls and game balls for volleyball,” Christianson said. “Typically two balls per game, one to use and there’s an extra at the scorers table in case something happens to the game ball.”
Last year’s game balls are typically added to the practice ball pile for future seasons, Flaten said.Tennis
The Tiger tennis team bought 150 tennis balls and 360 practice balls this season, Ekren said.
“For tennis we need extra duty, they last longer,” Ekren said. “All balls are regulated by the National Federation of High School Sports and the Minnesota State High School League.”
The Wilson T11001 Champion Extra Duty costs roughly $3.55 a can, or $1.18 per ball, Ekren said.
“They wear out, but it’s all dependent on how they are used. We will get three-plus years out of them as long as they aren’t left out in the rain.”
Coaches can tell when the balls wear out because, “you are able to press your thumb into them,” Lerud said. “When they are good, they are pressurized so you can’t.”