Mother Nature wreaks havoc on spring sports

Coaches of spring sports here know they’ll be adjusting games and practices as their seasons progress. After all, they’re dealing with Arkansas weather.

But 2013 is even a little much for the hardiest of coaches, athletes and fans. It seems almost daily changes have to be made because of the rain, wind or cold—or all three. Local teams haven’t had near the playing time of some of their opponents.

The team hit hardest, it seems, is the University of Arkansas at Monticello softball team. The Cotton Blossoms have had 10 games cancelled because of inclement weather. All were Great American Conference games and, when a team is trying to defend its conference championship, losing that many games can be devastating. Especially when that team has played less league games, by at least two, than any of its opponents.

“Me personally, I think it is important to play games, especially conference games,” UAM softball coach Alvy Early said. “Baseball and softball are sports in which you can’t reach potential when not playing regularly. Since the GAC has a ‘no make-up’ policy and the conference championship is decided on percentage, it creates some unfair situations, advantages and/or disadvantages for teams. I would like to the opportunity to at least make-up GAC games against Arkansas opponents.”

The Blossoms—who will have had 13 days between games when they take the field against Henderson State University on Friday in Arkadelphia, weather permitting—aren’t the only local team to suffer, though.

Monticello baseball, softball, soccer and even track and field have also had to rearrange schedules and cancel games, as have Drew Central’s baseball, softball and track and field teams.

Actually, the bad weather even reached basketball this year, as the Dumas-Monticello boys game was delayed twice by tornado warnings in late January.

UAM’s baseball team has not lost any games to the weather—yet—but the Weevils did have to reschedule top-ranked Delta State University’s appearance in Monticello earlier in the year, had to combine games with Northwestern Oklahoma State University, making what was scheduled to be a three-day series a two-day series, and had to push back the most recent GAC series with Harding University back one day.

“This is really the first year we have had issues with bad weather being a factor on what we do,” Monticello track coach Marty Davis said. “To this point, we have only lost one home meet and missed another away meet due to weather. Practice has been a bigger problem because of not being able to get in the rings, use the pits, or get on the track.

“The ground has either been too soft or too wet to get on. Most everything we do is always better for us if we can do it outside. We are fortunate to have an indoor building to use during bad weather. There we can get some training done but not like outdoors on the track. We do not control the weather, but we do adjust as best we can.”

It’s the same song, different verse down the road at Drew Central, Pirate baseball coach Nick Kelnhofer agreed. Drew Central has had two baseball games canceled by weather so far and, because of the shortness of the season and having to load the schedule full of games to play an appropriate amount, rescheduling is generally not considered an option unless it’s a conference tilt, Kelnhofer said.

“Pretty much the entire month of January and most of February,” the Pirate coach remembered, “the weather altered our practice plans. We were only on the field about 10-12 days before the season started. We have to schedule times in an auxiliary gym so we can do some drills indoors when the weather prevents us from practicing outside.

“We just have to deal with what the weather gives us. We basically only have three months to play our season. During those three months, we deal with basketball state tournament, end of course testing and spring break. I know in my experiences, there have been some years where we played as many as 30 games or as few as 16. It all depends on Mother Nature.”

For coaches of all spring sports teams anywhere in the country save the extreme southeast or southwest portions, that is an unfortunate and unwelcome part of their jobs. Early, Davis and Kelnhofer agreed there’s nothing they can really do about it.

“In a perfect world, our season would start later and be played during the warmer, more fair-weather months,” Kelnhofer said.  “A season that started after spring break and carried on through June would be the best scenario.  Of course, then you have to deal with (things like) summer football workouts and graduation.”



<p>A lone groundskeeper works on a wet Weevils Field at UAM. Baseball and softball fields have taken the brunt of our spring weather.</p>


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