Spring can be AD’s worst nightmare
Editor’s Note: First of two parts
After his team won a baseball game recently on a cold, windy day in New Carlisle, La Porte coach Scott Upp said, “We gotta learn to play in this. It’s Northwest Indiana, so we have no choice.”
But while most players would just as soon play in bad conditions, the choice is not up to them. Instead, it’s the athletic directors who have to make the sometimes-unpopular call.
“Spring is the toughest season,” South Central AD Ryan Kruszka said. “In this area, you always have to deal with cold and rain in the spring, but this is the first time I’ve dealt with this much snow this late. And the cold seems more consistent. The boys are going crazy.”
Most area ADs agree that, for them, spring is the toughest season.
“It can be a challenge,” La Porte AD Ed Gilliland said. “It seems like every year we are saying this is the worst spring I can remember. I am sure the constant cancellations and postponements have an impact on the players, but there is not much we can do about it.”
“It’s frustrating for sure,” said Oregon-Davis AD Greg Estok. “The spring season is short. The weather is unpredictable. It is hard to get all the games in the athletes deserve.”
“Spring is the roughest for the most part,” La Crosse AD Dave Amor said. “In the fall you get the rare cross country canceled for rain, but nothing like in the spring. Baseball and softball start so early and get some really rough weather.”
“Spring is frustrating because one of the biggest components of being an athletic director is providing the best possible experience for your student-athletes,” Marquette AD Katie Collginon said. “Factoring in spring break, the spring season is already very quick and with cancellations, it becomes even more cramped.”
For the dissenting opinion, there’s Michigan City AD Craig Shaman: “Spring is like this every year in northwest Indiana. My attitude is this is what the job is about. Spring is not the toughest, either. Winter is busy and dark and cold, and there are a lot more sports going on.
“I hear other ADs joking about how bad the spring is, but that’s what we signed up for. That’s the job we wanted,” he said.
Spring is “probably the busiest season,” Westville AD Josh Goeringer said. “Winter has many sports happening, however spring requires a lot of contacting other schools and scheduling. It comes with the job.”
A job that can require a lot more hours in the spring, as well as watching weather forecasts.
“The way we do it, it’s the AD’s call until the first pitch, and then it’s up to the umpires,” MC’s Shaman said. “I try to make the call by 1 p.m. You can’t call someone at 3 p.m. and tell them to stop driving here.
“If it rains, I look at how the field is and try to determine whether it will dry. I will always ask the coaches and the other ADs for their thoughts. We won’t play below 35 degrees real temperature. It’s kind of an unspoken rule in the DAC. Everyone in NWI realizes how brutal it can be.”
“Usually, the AD is the one who cancels games, in conjunction with the head coach,” Marquette’s Collignon said. “I am fortunate enough to have coaches that truly know their sport and can tell when the conditions are too adverse to play.”
“The home team AD makes the final call on canceling, but both ADs communicate quite a bit on thoughts, forecasts and concerns,” Westville AD Josh Goeringer said. “If there is a cancellation, both ADs are in agreement.”
La Porte’s Gilliland said the “decisions to postpone or cancel are usually a joint decision between myself, the coaches involved and the other school. Obviously player safety is a high priority but field conditions and travel safety are also huge factors ... field conditions have more of an impact in the spring.”
In fact, SC’s Kruszka said, they often have more impact than cold.
When he played in college, the rule was no game could start if it was 34 degrees or below. There is no such rule in Indiana, and the IHSAA does not even weigh in on cancellations.
La Crosse’s Amor said, “Cancelling is my call. I kind of wing it, 38 or 39 degrees with no wind is not horrible, but if the wind chill is 32 or below, I’m gonna call it.”
“Who makes the call can depend,” SC’s Kruszka said. “ADs make the call if it comes down to cold weather, but they will give way to the coaches if it’s an issue of field conditions or drainage. It’s about the kids’ safety. Some people throw around temperatures and wind chills, but it’s really just a judgment call with no set rules.”
O-D’s Estok agrees it’s all about safety.
“I look at safety of the student athlete first and foremost. I never want to see a kid get hurt or sick just to play a game. For instance, the weather we have had here lately – it has been cold and snowy. I do not want to risk one of my athletes getting sick and having to miss school.”
Sometimes the call can be made early.
“Field conditions are a big concern. Weather hours before the game can make it unplayable,” Westville’s Goeringer said. “We try to do as much mending as we can, however sometimes it’s not possible.”
“As an AD, you become obsessive about checking the weather,” Marquette’s Collignon said. “You don’t want to send your teams to an away game, match or tournament, only to show up and it gets called due to weather.”
The call is not always popular. When a softball game at New Prairie was called by the umpire minutes before first pitch, fans could be heard grumbling in the stands and the girls were not singing his praises on their way back to the locker room.
“They want to compete,” Kruszka said. “The kids hate cancellations; everybody hates cancellations. They want to play. They want to compete. They didn’t sign up for this to just practice. It’s frustrating for them. I get frustrated too.”
“Kids understand why we have to cancel events,” MC’s Shaman said. “Some don’t mind playing in the cold; others don’t like it. With cold it’s about 50/50. Maybe it depends on the position you play. Standing in right field on a cold windy day would not be a lot of fun.”
“It is frustrating because I remember being a student-athlete and you are so excited for your games or matches, and then all of them in one week could be canceled,” Marquette’s Collignon said. “I know it comes with the territory, but it definitely makes the spring season more hectic.”