Mitchell: Pushing back spring sports in Colorado is the right move
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
David Walck doesn’t need this year’s edition of the Farmers’ Almanac or even sites on the Internet to tell when pleasant, springlike temperatures outside will go away.
“It’s a pretty sure thing that on Feb. 23, the first day that high school spring sports are about to start, that the weather is going to turn to crap,” the athletic director at Grand Valley High School in Parachute said.
No doubt: There was about six inches of fresh snow on the baseball field at Grand Valley High School on the fateful day that spring sports started. It’s also at this time of year when the spring sports athletes, who are preparing for their upcoming season, spend just as much time practicing indoors as their winter-sports counterparts whose seasons have extended into state-tournament play.
It’s something that’s been happening for too long. By that virtue, it’s something that needs to change.
There are motions in the works to make that change. Rifle High Athletic Director Troy Phillips said coaches within all classifications of the Western Slope League, along with coaches within the hybrid Class 5A/4A Southwestern League, are drafting a proposal for the Colorado High School Activities Association to make the start of the spring sports season — specifically, the baseball season — one week later. Part of that proposal, mind you, would keep the length of the current spring sports season the same and extend it one week past its current end date.
It’s a move that needs to be made and has needed to be made for a very long time. It’s just not a move that can be made easily.
The unpredictable Colorado weather plays the biggest part in this, especially when it comes to poor and unplayable field conditions that force outdoor spring teams to practice, well, not outdoors. Of course, this is the time of year when winter sports teams — like the girls and boys basketball teams at Grand Valley and Coal Ridge who will play in their respective Class 3A regional tournaments starting this Friday — are fighting for space inside the schools to practice with the baseball, track and girls soccer teams.
That overlap is something that leaves spring sports coaches annually frustrated — especially when those coaches are trying to prepare their teams for their first games of the season. That, by the way, is this week — Glenwood Springs High’s girls soccer team was scheduled to play its season opener at home today.
For some schools, however, the overlap isn’t enough to justify a change.
“As a spring coach, how could you not be happy for an athlete that’s playing in the state basketball playoffs?” Coal Ridge Athletic Director Mike Aragon said. “I think for most, it’s a case where they have to adapt and overcome. We have seven girls who will be playing soccer and track and two to three [boys who] will be playing baseball. I’d rather they be in the basketball postseason if they’re given the opportunity.”
Other factors come in as well. Moving the season back a week would potentially create conflicts with high school graduation ceremonies for departing seniors, which could force some to decide if they want to walk with their classmates in that ceremony or compete in a state-tournament atmosphere of some kind.
But others say weather at this time of year, along with the amount of overlap between spring and winter sports, is too much with the current schedule structure.
Phillips confirmed during our conversation on Tuesday night that their scheduled season opener at Green Mountain on Friday has already been postponed — and moved to April 10 — because Green Mountain’s baseball field won’t be playable for at least another week. Other sports, such as tennis, girls soccer and lacrosse, are also dependent on good playing conditions to avoid postponements.
Moving the spring-season schedule back a week won’t stop an early May snowstorm in Colorado from happening, but at least there’s a higher likelihood that the weather could be more cooperative. Plus, with the state’s new pitch-limit rule being put into place next spring, it would increase the odds of prep baseball teams retaining their full pitching staffs by creating the less-likely appearance of six games in three days in the middle of May because of poor weather in March or April.
Plus, I’ve seen a time when people have adjusted when it comes to graduations and state title games.
On June 4, 2006, Glide High School beat Lakeview, 3-2, in the Oregon Class 2A/1A state baseball championship game at Volcanos Stadium in Keiser, Oregon. The seniors on Lakeview’s baseball team missed their scheduled high-school graduation ceremony to play for a state championship.
So the parents and fans who made the six-hour drive from Lakeview to the Salem area brought caps and gowns with them. And when the game was over, the Lakeview seniors draped them over their dirty baseball uniforms and held an impromptu graduation ceremony right outside the visitor’s dugout.
High school sports are supposed to be about what’s best for the kids involved. Moving the start of the spring sports season back a week is the right thing to do on all levels.
The Farmers’ Almanac isn’t needed to figure that out.
Jon Mitchell is the sports editor of The Citizen Telegram and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. He can be reached at 970-384-9123, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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