Spring sports have sprung a leak that’s grown into a gusher.
Area high school athletic directors have been powerless to stop it, area athletes powerless to play through it.
For two weeks now, on the heels of spring break and some nasty weather beforehand as well, postponements due to rain have been commonplace.
Many of those postponements, stacked on top of others, have turned into total cancellations as available make-up dates shrink and conference obligations must be fulfilled first.
“I can remember colder springs, but I don’t ever remember one this wet,” said Bill Sharpe, who arrived at Jimtown in 1980 as football coach and continues as the school’s longtime athletic director. “You can deal with cold better than wet.”
“No question, this has been the worst (spring),” said Dave Preheim, in his ninth year as AD at Concord. “We’ve had times where we’ve had a bad week, lost everything in that given week, but nothing like this.”
“This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” said fourth-year Central AD Buck Buckley. “We’re looking for ways to be creative with the scheduling, but our facilities are stressed, and our athletes are getting stressed.”
For baseball and softball, even when it’s not raining, the fields have to be checked to see if they’re playable. Tennis needs the courts to be reasonably dry.
Track and golf have particular challenges as well. Track, like baseball and softball, involves the rescheduling of officials, and golf can be at the mercy of the needs of the hosting courses.
All sports involve rescheduling player transportation, too, when it’s not a home contest.
While their own jobs have become more complicated, Buckley, Preheim and Sharpe all say they feel for their athletes.
“The kids just want to play,” Preheim said. “Every day in lunch line they’re asking, ‘Are we going to be able to play tonight?’ When an athlete puts in all that practice time, more than anything, they just want to play.”
“It feels like a nursery school over here,” Sharpe said. “Kids are everywhere. We want them out and they want to be out. You can do some things inside, but inside practices in the spring are a nightmare. In the fall, it’s a novelty, and when I was coaching football and it was the playoffs and we had stuff we needed to get done, I was notorious for practicing in the gym. It was a novelty, but in the spring, the kids want out.”
“With limited gym space, we’ve had some practices in classrooms,” Buckley said. “That’s a drain on the kids and the coaches, but I will say everyone’s been cooperative with the situation.”
Preheim said Friday, April 19, that at least 32 spring sports events involving Concord have been postponed or canceled, including 14 cancellations, and that’s counting the varsity/JV doubleheaders as just one each.
Still more events were being threatened Friday as he spoke.
On Thursday, at least three of the area’s girls tennis postponements resulted in domino effects. They were each rescheduled to dates that also forced at least one of the participating teams to cancel a non-conference contest altogether.
The lack of breaks in the foul weather has made schools try more desperately to get in what they can, often without success.
Among the examples, the NorthWood tennis team spent several hours at the New Prairie Invitational waiting to get on the courts last weekend without ever playing. And the NorthWood at Memorial contest was moved mid-match to Goshen in search of dry courts, only to ultimately be suspended anyway due to darkness.
Eventually, the weather might offer a break, and if it’s a sustained one, teams could go from prolonged periods of idleness to pro-like schedules.
The Concord baseball team, as an example, has a four-week period in which it currently has just four off dates, not including Sundays, which are not allowed by the IHSAA as competition dates anyway.
“We’re still waiting for that break-out week of nice, sunny days,” Preheim said, “where it’s 65 and sunshine and green field, and it’s easy for kids to say, ‘This is why I do this.’ We’re looking for a week like that, but we haven’t had a day like that.”