By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — The good news for Miami County’s athletic teams is the weather is supposed to be better this week.
The bad news? It’s Ohio, so that could change at any point.
A swath of rain, cold and, incredibly, mid-April snow, tore through the area late last week, forcing the cancellation of all of the scheduled high school sporting events in Miami County. Three days’ worth of lost games have left area athletic directors scrambling.
“There’s not much you can do about (the weather), obviously,” Troy High School athletic director Dave Palmer said. “It’s not like it’s anything new. It’s something you get used to every spring. You know it’s going to happen. You just do your best to reschedule what you can.”
While some events will be rescheduled — conference-affiliated contests will take the highest priority — others likely will not be able to made up and will be lost for this year. The Herb Hartman Invitational track and field meet, scheduled for last Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium, is one such event that likely will have to wait until next year.
“There’s a good chance we won’t be able to make that one up,” Palmer said. “The first problem you run into is finding the officials to run the meet. Even if you do find a date, most of the officials and the teams are already committed elsewhere. Everyone’s schedules are already pretty full.”
Athletic directors face a number of unique challenges in putting together spring sports schedules they don’t face during the fall or winter seasons. First and foremost, obviously, is Ohio’s unpredictable spring weather. This is the second year in a row sporting events within the county have been canceled because of snow in late March or April.
Most fall sports now begin in the steamy, sunny days of August and the regular seasons are wrapping up by mid-October. While the occasional lightning storm has been known to postpone those early-August contests, the weather during the fall sports season is generally conducive to getting in a full slate of games, even if it does get chilly during the games later in the season.
In the winter, all of the sports take place indoors. Yes, hazardous road conditions created by snow and ice have been known to cause cancellations or postponements, but those still tend to be fewer and further between than spring sports cancellations and postponements.
In addition to the inclement weather itself, the biggest scheduling challenge facing spring sports is the length of the seasons themselves. The spring sports season is, by far, shorter than the fall and winter sports seasons.
According to the guidelines set by the Ohio High School Athletic Association of when sports are allowed to begin playing regular season games and when tournament play begins, the average fall sports regular season is 58.3 days. The average winter sports regular season is 76.7 days. The average spring sports regular season is just 46.0 days. That short spring schedule obviously leaves athletic directors less wiggle room for rescheduling games that are postponed by the weather.
High school football teams, for example, had a 69-day window in which to play regular season games last fall. Boys and girls basketball teams both 80 days to complete a full regular-season schedule before sectional tournament play began. Baseball and softball teams were allowed to begin playing games March 26, with sectional tournaments slated to begin May 7 — leaving just 42 days in which to schedule regular-season games.
While comparing high school football season to high school baseball season may seem like an apples-to-oranges comparison, there is one apples-to-apples comparison between fall and spring sports. In the fall, girls tennis season began Aug. 12 this year, with sectional tournaments beginning Oct. 3 — a span of 52 days. Boys tennis season, which takes place in the spring, will run from March 25 until May 9, a span of 45 days, or a full week less than the girls tennis teams have to complete their regular season in the fall.
Fall sports season has the advantage of starting well before school is in session. Boys and girls golf teams, for example, were allowed by begin playing regular season matches Aug. 5 this scholastic year, well before classes had begun for most county schools.
Winter sports have the advantage of competing in the longest season, in part because the fact the games are played indoors means contests taking place are not reliant on the weather. Certainly, there’s also a holiday break in the middle of the season to consider, but even if a team decided not to play any games for two weeks during the holidays in December — which no Miami County school elected to do this year — the average length of the winter sports season would be 74.3 days.
Springs sports, however, are sandwiched in between winter weather and the end of the school year. With games being played outdoors, the spring sports season cannot begin until the weather warms up — which has been a mostly theoretical date the past few years — in late March and must end by the end of the school year in late May or early June.
There has been some discussion of possibly extending the spring sports season into the summer months, but that has never gained any serious traction at the state level. For now, the short window in which spring contests must be played will leave athletic directors largely at the mercy of Mother Nature.
“You just do the best you can,” Palmer said. “You work with your coaches and try to get in as much as you can.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong