Spring sports season has begun, but Mother Nature has yet to put her stamp of approval on it.
“If spring sports had started in February this year, it would have been great,” Marian Central Catholic High School Athletic Director Curtis Price joked. “The weather was perfect a couple of weeks ago.”
Spring sports season in the Midwest always presents the additional challenge of inclement weather – soggy fields, wet tennis courts, frost, snow, rain – all possible in Northern Illinois in March and April. Coaches, athletes, parents and officials often have to have patience, adjust and adapt.
“We at Woodstock High School respect and appreciate our spring coaches, [athletes] and parents,” Woodstock High School Athletic Director Glen Wilson said. “Spring sports season means adaptability and flexibility.”
This was the sentiment of Price, Wilson and Woodstock North High School Athletic Director Brady Stromquist.
“Our coaches get creative. If a game or practice is cancelled, we utilize every indoor space we can – gym, cafeteria, weight room, wherever – to work on mechanics and technique. Our coaches do what they need to do to prepare the athletes.”
Last week, all scheduled baseball and softball games for the three schools were canceled or postponed due to weather. A few girls soccer games and a tennis match also were canceled.
All three athletic directors indicated they try to make a decision on contests as early as possible.
“We try to be as proactive as possible,” Stromquist said, explaining that he looks at weather forecasts and the upcoming contest schedule.
Price said he works closely with the groundskeepers to discuss the conditions of the fields. He tries to make decisions by noon as Marian is in the East Suburban Catholic Conference with schools reaching as far away as Chicago and LaGrange Park. Price said he contacts the other team’s athletic director as well as his own coaching staff, team captains, officials and parents.
WHS and WNHS both compete in the Kishwaukee River Conference and have the ability to make the call regarding a contest later in the day. Wilson and Stromquist also contact the other team’s athletic director first and then use emails, phone and social media to communicate with coaches, students, officials and parents.
All athletic directors attempt to reschedule as many games and meets as possible. “It is easier to reschedule games at the beginning of the season because there is more time to fit them in,” Stromquist explained.
Price said it might be more difficult to add in baseball games at the end of the season this year, citing new IHSA pitch-count rules. “It will be interesting to see how that plays out,” he said. “If you have enough arms, you’ll be OK, but if you don’t, it might be more difficult.”
“I feel bad for the spring athletes,” Price said. “They wait all year for this, they work hard, they practice hard, they train hard. When [the games] are cancelled, I just feel bad. I love to watch them play. We try our hardest to get the games in – for [the athletes].”
Conference games take priority, Stromquist said. “We try to reschedule our KRC conference games and get those in – even if we have to cancel a nonconference contest.”
“We love our nonconference games, but we try to get all of our conference games in. Those take priority,” Wilson said of the difficulties of having to cancel a nonconference game and replace it with a conference contest.
“That is what we all try to do – and the athletic directors and coaches, we all understand if a nonconference contest is cancelled. We all try to be flexible,” Price said.
And flexibility seems to be the universal theme for spring sports.
“I commend the parents and the kids,” Wilson said. “Spring-sport planning requires two sets of clothes almost every day.” He explained that, in addition to clothing, athletes also might need cleats for outdoor practice, but athletic shoes if they are moved inside. “Spring sports require flexibility. We know that, and we appreciate our parents, our kids and our coaches for being adaptable.”