Record Cold, Snow Take Toll on Spring Sports Practices

Ice, snow, bitter cold confine athletes to weight room, gym floors, batting cages and rowing machines, limiting authentic spring sports prep

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Record Cold, Snow Take Toll on Spring Sports Practices

The tennis courts near Onaway Elementary School were flooded after snow melting.

The tennis courts near Onaway Elementary School were flooded after snow melting.

Elena Weingart

The tennis courts near Onaway Elementary School were flooded after snow melting.

Elena Weingart

Elena Weingart

The tennis courts near Onaway Elementary School were flooded after snow melting.

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A record cold February and 60 inches of snow have complicated preparation for spring sports.

“We haven’t been able to get outside to even throw or run, so we’ve had to hold baseball practice in the south gym, which can take the fun out of baseball,” said senior baseball player Nate Livingston.

According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association, softball and baseball’s first day of coaching was Feb. 23. Track and men’s tennis began March 9. Shaker teams have already started training, but the fields and track have become snow- or ice-covered due to the extreme weather conditions.

“We’ve only been able to practice a couple of Saturdays in the gym, so not a lot has gotten done,” said Jessica O’Brien, women’s rugby coach.

According to WEWS, Cleveland experienced its coldest February this year since 1875. Cleveland.com reported 60 inches of snowfall since Nov. 13. As a result, the outdoor facilities may not be usable for the coming weeks.

“All the snow needs to melt,” said Athletic Director Don Readance. “We then need multiple warm, sunny days for the field to absorb all the water.”

Sports must practice inside the two gyms and the multi-purpose room when weather doesn’t permit practice outside. However, Shaker has more teams than gyms, so teams use time slots to hold practice.

“It’s done with priorities given to sports in-season first, then sports that are coming up next get spots. Winter sports are still going on, so spring sports get second priority,” Readance said.

“Gym time is hard to come by since winter sports are still going on. There is not as much availability,” said Kristen Harter, the women’s varsity softball coach.

Practices can start late at night due to the staggered gym times, taking a toll on both students and coaches.

“Having practice really late is really exhausting,” said Harter. “As a coach, you have a full day and you have to wait at school until the practices start.”

Without ample practice space, some teams use the high school’s weight room more often. In addition to weights, the room has bikes and rowing machines.

“We haven’t been able to get outside to even throw or run, so we’ve had to hold baseball practice in the south gym, which can take the fun out of baseball,””

— Nate Livingston

However, even the weight room is not always a sufficient substitute. When the weather allows, the crew team practices on the Cuyahoga River. During the winter, however, the team must practice on rowing machines.

“The machines are as close as it gets to the real thing, but you need a certain adjustment from the machines to the water,” said Sydney Gang, a freshman on the crew team. “If you’re preparing for a race indoors, it isn’t the same as preparing outside.”

O’Brien agreed that indoor preparation for outdoor sports is not sufficient and could pose a problem for athletes new to their sport.

Harter said that although the softball team benefits from batting cages, it’s difficult to get a feel for all aspects of the sport.

“You don’t get a real idea. It’s hard to do full fielding indoors and how the ball skips and hits is totally different on the gym floor,” Harter said.

During days with bad weather, the weight room quickly fills up.

“We have our own room [for crew] so it isn’t as big of a problem to get equipment, but if we have to lift weights we sometimes have to do that in the room with all the machinery because it’s so full,” Gang said.

Future snow or rain could also interrupt practices and games.

“Once we start practicing outside really any type of precipitation will make the field unusable,” said junior softball player Kylie Boyle.

Last year, the weather also kept teams from playing all of their games. Within the first two days of scheduled games, April 7 and 8, seven games were cancelled. According to Readance 10 to 15 percent of games are postponed and rescheduled in the spring each year.

“Last year was really bad. We probably had to cancel a game or two every week,” sophomore softball player Rebecca Shankman said.

The same was true for other sports. “Last year we didn’t start games until April because of the weather,” O’Brien said.

With the weather warming now, teams plan to begin practicing outside soon.

Head crew coach Robert Valerian plans to start rowing outside March 21 to be ready for the crew’s first race in early April.

Junior Branden Augustine said crew coaches were conscious of the weather.

“We don’t wear too much, though, so coaches generally take it easier on us in the cold and give us less time on the water and more in the boathouse on machines in the warmth,” stated Augustine in an online interview. “It’s still frigid and the first half-hour is dreaded. But after you get through the warm up and you start moving you ignore the cold and focus on rowing.”

Readance hopes all practices and games will be moved outside in the near future. “I’m hoping by next Monday [March 16] most if not all of the snow will be gone but there will be a lot of moisture,” said Readance. “After the moisture is gone, games and practices will be able to be outside.”

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