There were meetings and clinics and indoor scrimmages. There were practices dedicated to fundamentals and team bonding that turned into a series of mini-competitions. There were snowmen and snowballs and snow sliding and lots of snow shoveling. There was bowling and yoga and dodgeball and kickball and kitten ball (which is a thing) and wiffle ball.
There was plenty going on around the metro for spring sports teams with one large, inescapable omission.
There were no games.
The crummy weather of the 2018 Spring-That-Wasn’t has set metropolitan area high school schedules back at least a couple of weeks.
“Having been a head coach in Minnesota for 29 years, I feel like I’ve seen just about everything,” Litchfield baseball coach Jeff Wollin said. “I can’t remember a year when it’s stayed so cold for so long.”
Coaches are tapping their creative sides looking for ways to prepare for a season that still seems days away.
Totino-Grace baseball coach Mike Smith looks at nature’s uncooperative ways as a chance to teach a lesson. “It has affected the mood a little bit, but over here we hammer the saying ‘Control what you can control — attitude, effort, and your response to what happens around you,’ ” Smith said.
Indoor spaces and all-weather domes have been in high demand and constant use as teams seek available space to practice. The South St. Paul Packer Activity Center has been so full that teams accustomed to using the space have felt the crunch.
“Each week your time changes. [We] can’t get much done,” Packers softball coach Paul Moen said. “The girls find excuses of why they can’t come to practice because of the late times we practice.”
Many coaches have taken the time to conduct team-building exercises.
The Spring Lake Park softball team spent Friday making blankets they donated to charity. “The girls were able to make close to 20 blankets,” coach Lori Lightbody said. “They enjoyed working together on the project and liked that we were giving back.”
Chanhassen softball’s Fastpitch Fridays, a tradition of clinics for young players, went off as planned Friday. Despite taking place in the school’s gym instead of the softball field, Storm coach Joe Coenen said it was a success.
“We had more kids show up than I expected,” Coenen said. “Our team loved it. They got to work with the young players and it’s a chance to see things from a different perspective. We had a blast.”
For many, games could still be a week or two away. The weather report forecasts temps in the 40s this week, but the warmer stretch isn’t expected to last long enough to melt enough snow to make the fields playable.
Teams and athletic departments are scrambling to revise their schedules. The South Suburban Conference set aside Tuesday for reworking the conference baseball schedule. The Metro East conference is looking at softball doubleheaders of two five-inning games.
The biggest task for many coaches has been keeping spirits high, which grows in difficulty with each passing day.
“We’ve played wiffle ball and dodge ball, had pizza and ice cream parties, spent two days in week one teaching them baseball kindergarten,” St. Francis baseball coach Luke Scardigli said. “But they aren’t 10 years old anymore. They want to play games, not go bowling.”