For spring sports, no more winter weather
SCHUYLER COUNTY —The winter that just won’t quit is posing interesting challenges to area athletes. They’re ready to start practicing on the fields—but the fields are not ready for them.
“We expect it at this time of year,” says Watkins Glen Central School’s Athletic Director Rod Weeden. “We’re rotating kids through the field house. They can practice lacrosse with the wall open, using a softer, inside ball; they’ve got an indoor batting cage and indoor balls they can practice with. We’re scheduled for inside use of the field house this entire month.”
This time of year, players can—and would—practice outdoors, weather permitting. Teams were outside Friday March 7, and also on Tuesday, March 11—before Winter Storm Vulcan charted a course that included the Finger Lakes. So coaches have some kids cross-training for speed and endurance on treadmills, stair-steppers and stationary bikes. “You can get a better practice in [than in former years] when you’re stuck inside,” Weeden says. “Pole-vaulters can work on the rope and train for upper- body strength. You do what you need to do.”
That said, Weeden is looking at hard scheduling choices, perhaps substituting a scrimmage for a game if weather keeps the new lacrosse teams indoors; schedules also have to be re-configured to take spring break into account.
There’s also the matter of the season for modified sports—those played by seventh, eighth and ninth graders against other teams in their age range—starting up a few weeks behind the varsity teams, putting additional space-management pressure on school facilities.
“It’s been very frustrating for athletes and coaches alike,” says Skip Strobel, Athletic Manager for Odessa-Montour Central School, who also coaches boys’ track. “They’re practicing indoors, using the gym space, and it’s a matter of trying to make sure every team has practice time.”
Strobel is currently wondering whether some scheduled matches will have to be cancelled, something that has not happened yet but might emerge as the season progresses. “I imagine most of our fields and those around us will not be ready. The issue is not so much the snow on the fields—but when that snow melts, the fields will be so wet. It will be difficult for anyone to get out and practice because they’ll be sinking in. But obviously, things could change,” he adds optimistically.
“Stuck in a gym—it gets old pretty fast,” comments Jim Scott, coach for girl’s varsity softball in Watkins Glen. “There’s not a heck of a lot you can do in a gym. We try to be imaginative and come up with as many things as we can to make it not boring, but the weather makes it difficult. We started a little earlier this year with tryouts and practice, and our first game is supposed to be March 28. We’ve had a couple of games [in previous years] on a really soggy field. It’s messy and it’s not all that safe. If it’s a mud-hole, we’ll cancel for safety reasons—though hopefully that isn’t going to happen. But the storm really sets back the maintenance guys. The ground crews have a lot of fields to maintain in the spring, which is a challenge for them also. We all have to be patient and do the best we can.”
“The fields tend to be playable the last week of March but this year things might be pushed into April,” Weeden says. “I don’t think they’ll be ideal until after spring break. I’m hoping they can grow the grass they need during that week.” But it’s not just a problem affecting Schuyler County teams, he notes. “It affects everyone—we’re all in this together.”