Relentless pounding from snow, rain, cold takes toll on area sports teams
During his 20-plus years of coaching soccer at Grafton High School, Don Arnold thought he had seen just about everything in the sport.
That is until this spring, when his girlsâ team has spent more time kicking balls around in gymnasiums and hallways than on the field.
Thank you, Mother Nature.
âThis has got to be the worst spring Iâve ever seen for sports,â said Arnold, who like other area coaches has watched practices and games fall victim to lousy weather â first snow, then rain and cold.
âItâs been crazy, like the tale of two springs. Last year, we had 70-degree days, and everybody was getting suntanned.
âThis year, we canât even get out on the field. Itâs not that playing in the rain is a problem because we do that. But the fields are just too soaked, too unsafe to use.â
After having its first three games postponed, Grafton caught a reprieve this week. On Monday night, the Black Hawks were able to use Whitefish Bay High Schoolâs artificial-turf field for their season opener against Germantown.
Few teams have been so lucky. Although track and field squads dodged inclement conditions as they finished their indoor seasons, the sloppy spring has taken its toll on soccer, softball, tennis and golf.
As of Monday, the Port Washington and Cedar Grove-Belgium softball teams had yet to play a game on their 2013 schedules. For Port, thatâs meant at least six postponements, some of which are sure to become cancellations.
âAll the fields are so saturated, we canât do anything,â Port softball coach Steve Schmidt said last Friday.
âWeâve been outside two times (in five weeks), and that was to use the parking lot.â
Early season practices typically have the Pirates inside using a batting cage, playing catch and lifting weights. But this year, Schmidtâs team has had to share gymnasium space with tennis, track and soccer squads week after week.
âEverybody is trying to keep the girls upbeat,â he said. âThe coaches know the girls are frustrated, and weâre frustrated, too.â
Although the infield on the Thomas Jefferson Middle School diamond could be prepared for play, a super-soggy outfield has rendered the facility unusable, Schmidt said.
âI donât foresee us being able to play on at home for two more weeks. We will have basically lost the first six weeks of the season,â he said.
Most meets for the Port Washington and Grafton boysâ tennis teams were wiped out in the first three weeks, though Grafton was able to squeeze in its season opener.
Some tennis meets have also been moved to indoor facilities, a luxury unavailable to outdoors-only sports.
âWeâre coping as well as we can,â said Port golf coach Kelly Green, who saw his teamâs first three meets shelved, including this weekâs North Shore Conference all-teams nine-hole meet at Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee.
âThe courses just canât be used. We canât make up everything, so weâre probably going to have a very, very condensed season.â
A spell of dry weather last weekend may soon give golfers a reprieve.
Hawthorne Hills Golf Course in the Town of Saukville was expected to be open early this week. On Wednesday, April 17, Port was scheduled to play at The Bull in a makeup of the Sheboygan Falls Invitational, which was postponed April 10.
Coaches havenât been the only school officials scratching their heads.
âThis is easily the most postponements weâve ever had,â Grafton Athletic Director Scott Parsons said.
âIn the past, weâve always cancelled a few games here or there, but weâre at the point this spring where you know 100% that youâre not going to play for several days at a time.
âItâs been really, really strange.â
Parsons, who serves as co-commissioner of the North Shore Conference with Whitefish Bayâs Jon Gustavson, said the sloppy spring has sparked an unusually strong sense of cooperation between teams, coaches and schools.
âEveryone has been pulling together through this,â he said. âOur coaches have been phenomenal at sharing facilities, whether itâs the gym or weight room or even hallways.â
Cedar Grove-Belgium and Ozaukee high schools have been spared some weather-related inconveniences. Neither school has a tennis program, and Ozaukee doesnât play softball.
But both schools are in the same boat for other sports.
âWeâve had one track meet and nothing else,â Cedar Grove-Belgium Athletic Director Brad Mayer, who also coaches golf, said last Friday.
âItâs frustrating, but thereâs nothing you can do but try to reschedule things.â
Another alternative is finding a nicer place to play, an approach used by the Grafton softball team.
Coach Ken Huntâs squad spent spring break in Alabama, where it got in three nonconference games against out-of-state opponents. The Hawks then returned to Wisconsin and saw their next four games postponed.
Port Athletic Director Thad Gabrielse has experienced much of the same frustration, watching scheduling paperwork pile up on his desk. But heâs not about to throw in the towel.
âIâm very optimistic that we will be able to reschedule most of the events,â Gabrielse said.
âSome of the nonconference games and meets will probably have to be cancelled, but thereâs enough time left to make up the conference ones.â
Tennis courts are now clear of snow, soccer fields are slowly drying, and softball games can be rescheduled as part of doubleheaders, Gabrielse noted.
âWeâll keep working at it,â he added.
For Parsons, a sense of humor has helped keep the storm clouds in perspective.
âThe sun has got to come out at some point. At least thatâs what Iâve heard,â he said.
Image Information: STEADY PRECIPITATION has left most outdoor athletic facilities in the area, including the Grafton soccer field (above), unusable for extended periods this spring. Photo by Sam Arendt