What’s that old saying about weather in Minnesota? It goes something like this: Wait five minutes and it will change. Through most of this week, the only changes seemed to be drops in the temperatures. Yes, the week started with a snowstorm and then Arctic air rolled in, resulting in school closings and after-school activities being shut down for several days.
Nobody really plans for this. Fall and spring sports are accustomed to weather interruptions, but indoor winter events are different. And when the weather is so brutal that outdoor events like Alpine and Nordic skiing practices and competitions are called off, well, this is almost uncharted territory.
So, what now? It’s February and winter sports seasons are winding down as postseason play nears. In fact, the MSHSL one-act play state festival will be held next Thursday and Friday at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium on the campus of St. Catherine University in St. Paul. The state Alpine and Nordic ski meets will take place Feb. 13-14 at Giants Ridge in Biwabik and the state dance tournament will happen Feb. 15-16 at Target Center, followed in quick order by the rest of the winter state tourneys.
In the meantime, there is a lot of scrambling to attempt to reschedule competitions that were wiped out by this week’s weather. It’s not an easy task. On Twitter, I solicited comments from around the state.
“Besides the craziness of finding rescheduled dates that are open for both opponents and the officials, one of the issues that concerns me is finding the right balance between playing all of the games and doing what's right for the kids,” St. Charles activities director Scott McCready wrote in an email. “We all strive to play the full 26 in basketball, for example, but if we have to squeeze in five games in six days, I don't think that is healthy for any team. Sometimes Mother Nature wins and maybe that means we have to cancel some games completely.”
At St. Cloud Cathedral, activities director Emmett Keenan Tweeted: “The unsung heroes of multiple rescheduled games: Bus dispatchers, officials' assignors, ATC schedulers, facility schedulers, other tenants who are willing to give and take, game workers, etc. A lot more to it than just getting the two teams to agree.”
On Twitter, Debra Card of Hutchinson told me that her son Tate, a wrestler, “is really struggling managing weight without having practices. Sure, he can go to the gym but nothing beats a two-pound wrestling practice and keeping sharp for the upcoming sections!”
John Barnes, swimming and diving coach at St. Thomas Academy, wrote on Twitter, “We must just adapt and adjust every day. No need to worry, just believe in the system and that your athletes trust and believe in you. Just like in sales and life you must overcome objections to succeed. I know my team will be fine and healthy when we return to practice.”
Chad Courrier, who is a veteran MSHSL basketball official as well as a sports reporter at the Mankato Free Press, wrote about the impact of the weather on Mankato-area teams.
“It's probably been tougher on the coaches and kids because when we don't have school, they can't get together and practice," Mankato Loyola activities director John Landkamer said. "We've been able to find officials for varsity games, but the C squad and junior-high games are a struggle, and you can't make those up."
Once a game is postponed, activity directors need to find a date that their school and the opponent has open, then try to find officials that can work that date. Last week, Madelia tried to reschedule a game against St. Clair on Friday, but there were no officials available.
"Both factors are tough," Madelia activities director Paul Carpenter said. "If you can find an open date, there's no guarantee you'll find officials. Some games, you're looking for three-man crews, which makes it tougher. Fridays are impossible; other days are tough, too."
No MSHSL activity is immune from these challenges. On Twitter, Ian Mills of Esko wrote about robotics: “I’d say that these ‘dead days’ have even more of an effect on MSHSL robotics teams. To start they only have six weeks to build their robot and now some teams are missing most of their fourth week of build. It will directly impact nearly every robot in MN.”
Kent Janikula, boys basketball coach at Watertown-Mayer, wrote in an email that he tried to use his down time wisely.
“I must admit cabin fever is setting in a bit. The extra time has given me a lot of time to prepare scouting reports and watch film on upcoming opponents as well as some possible section opponents. That time has been good as the life of a teacher/coach can be hectic.
“My biggest fear is conditioning and kids staying in game shape. It’s not like people have many ways of staying active these last few days. I’m staying positive in knowing that our opponents are also not able to practice so there shouldn’t be any advantage gained. As a coach you always have things that you can work on in practice, but I’m hoping these days help recharge the batteries for our players and give some players battling injuries some extra time to recover.
“As much as I’m making the most of the time away, I’m ready to get back at it!”
We can all agree on that.
--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.