Spring sports athletes confined indoors by extended winter
The calendar said Wednesday was the first day of spring.
Unfortunately for thousands of local high-school athletes participating in spring sports, it still feels like winter.
Mother Nature has made hitting golf balls, kicking soccer balls and fetching fly balls next to impossible—at least outdoors.
Just one year ago this week, the area saw record high temperatures. This year, they're abnormally low—hovering around the freezing mark—and with six inches of snow on the ground, the only activities taking place are indoors.
Brodhead High School is normally locked and vacated by 6 p.m. Not this week. Indoor practice doesn't end until 9:30 p.m. for the baseball team.
"There's not much we can do about it, but it sure does create a lot of problems as far as rescheduling and trying to get all our games in," Brodhead Athletic Director Jim Matthys said of the inclement weather. "If we can't get outside and start playing games in the next couple of weeks, I think you're going to see some very creative scheduling down the road.
"And when you add in some rainouts, which we always seem to have a couple of, you may be looking at a one-month season for our softball and baseball teams."
Besides the scheduling headache, Matthys said some teams are also going to be forced to lose games on the schedule. Brodhead's varsity softball team has a 20-game schedule. The Cardinals have already canceled their first two nonconference games against Milton and Albany—giving them an 18-game regular season.
"It's probably going to come down to bumping some nonconference games in favor of getting conference games in," Matthys said. "You're probably going to see a fair amount of doubleheaders played, too."
Many area schools, such as Janesville Craig, Janesville Parker and Evansville, have the luxury of fieldhouse facilities. That makes it easier to accommodate what could be—starting next week—as many as seven different sports teams practicing at once.
Milton does not have that luxury. Teams are using the wrestling and gymnastics rooms and coming in before school to practice.
"You won't see anybody throwing the discus," Milton Athletic Director Brian Hammil said of the cramped quarters. "We were hoping to at least use the dry parking lots at school to play catch and long toss, but it's even too cold for that.
"You just make do with what you have and hope it starts to warm up enough where we can at least get outside to practice. I know playing games is not in the near future, but getting outside to practice would help."
Getting outside—whenever that finally takes place—doesn't guarantee anything as far as games, matches or meets taking place. Area golf courses are far from being ready for play. Even when the snow eventually melts, the ground will still be frozen. Baseball and softball fields need warm, sunny, and windy conditions to dry up.
"Safety to our athletes is our No. 1 concern," Janesville Craig Athletic Director Ben McCormick said. "We're pretty vigilant when it comes to avoiding injuries. We're not going to play on a field that puts any athlete in jeopardy just for the sake of getting a game in.
"The conditions we have outside right now are very problematic, but everybody else is in the same boat as us. I'm just thankful that we have a fieldhouse. I don't know what we did before that."
The spring sports season is upon us. Playing games, however, is nowhere in sight.