Back-to-back weeks of severe winter weather has put winter sports teams in a problematic position.
With many schools closed a significant amount of days over the past two weeks for extremely cold temperatures and then ice and large amounts of snow and wind, teams haven’t been able to practice or play games with postseasons nearing.
“When you had last week when we had the four days wiped out at school and couldn’t practice, we just encouraged our kids to get a workout any way they could,” Chi-Hi athletic director Mike Thompson said. “I think our kids have been pretty responsive to that just trying to find a gym or a pool or any ice that they can get to and our gymnasts do practice off site every once in a while.”
Regionals for wrestling and sectionals for boys swimming begin on Saturday and next week boys and girls hockey teams start their postseasons.
“Our message is pretty simple, whatever is in front of us we have to make it through, we have to tough it out. It’s out of our control,” Chi-Hi boys hockey coach Scott Parker said.
The team had its game against conference leader Eau Claire North moved from Thursday to Monday. Parker said he has been speaking to the team about preparing for the Huskies but now the team’s next game is Saturday versus River Falls at 10 a.m. at Chippewa Area Ice Arena.
The early morning game against the Wildcats is due in part to athletic directors having to be creative with their scheduling. Thompson said he has had to resort to some unique start times because of facility availability. It’s not just varsity teams impacted either, Parker said the junior varsity team which has put together a really good year won’t be able to make up those missed games because of the lack of available ice time and referees.
For basketball teams, they’re still trying to get in as many games against high-quality opponents in prior to seeding meeting for the playoffs. Postponements have pushed a large chunk of the schedule to the final two weeks of the regular season.
The Chi-Hi boys basketball team plays Tuesday, Thursday and Friday next week while the girls team has games on back-to-back days twice as it rounds out its regular season at the end of next week.
“It’s not ideal down the stretch but you also want keep sectional opponents and your conference opponents in hand so you can get a true seeding when those seeding meeting happen,” Thompson said.
McDonell athletic director Eric Gardow said the postponements which have caused a buildup of games in a short amount of time leads to a concern for the athletes who haven’t been able to keep with their regular practice schedules.
“When you have so much time off and you come back and do back-to-back games you’re always worried about their recovery time and health,” Gardow said. “It is a concern, especially going into tournament time, you want to be at your best.”
The McDonell girls basketball team hasn’t played a game since Jan. 25 and will play three games in row without practice beginning on Friday at Cadott. The boys teams have been off since Jan. 24 and have three games per week in each of the next two weeks.
“It’s kind of two-fold, you’re not even around the kids to get some work done,” Gardow said of missed practices. “Now we are going to go from not even practicing to having games and our girls have to play three games in a row, Friday, Saturday and Monday with no practice.”
While the goal is to get every game in, Gardow said they must keep safely as the number one priority, which is why although he feels the remaining schedule has reached its limit, if another round of poor weather occurs, cancellation would be the next option.
“It’s always about the kids so we need to get them to and from the events safely,” Gardow said. “The parents and the bus drivers and all of those things. All it takes is one thing wrong and we’re in trouble and we don’t want that to happen. Winning and losing becomes pretty secondary.”
Rescheduling included more than finding an opening on the calendar between two opponents. It takes involvement from referees, and volunteers to work the games. Thompson and Gardow both said the support of families and game workers has been positive which makes their jobs easier.
“There are so many moving parts and so many people that are involved,” Thompson said. “I’m just thankful for all the people that I’ve been able to rely on, whether it’s game workers or officials, coaches, kids and families have been really responsive.”
Parker said he doesn’t remember a year like this where there are so many school days cancelled in a two-week span. The team had to cancel a game against De Pere to get a Big Rivers Conference game in at Eau Claire Memorial last week. The girls team had to do the same losing a scheduled game against Western Wisconsin to play Hudson, which was ultimately moved from this past Tuesday to Monday.
“This is what playoff hockey is all about, playing a lot of hockey in a short amount of time,” Parker said, “so we have to be mentally ready for this and physically ready for this and that’s what it’s about, just being ready to play hockey.
“All this weather there is nothing we can do about it. We can control our own destiny with good hockey.”