• Snow wreaks havoc on spring sports

  • For weeks, Blue Springs High School was like an athletic bizarro world.

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  • For weeks, Blue Springs High School was like an athletic bizarro world.
    The baseball team tossed balls around the parking lot. The boys tennis squad worked out in the wrestling room. Members of the track and field team were spread out throughout the high school, running sprints in the auditorium while the distance competitors jogged laps around the hallways.
    This is what happens when the first two weeks of spring sports practice is wiped out by a pair of major snow storms. Fortunately, every program in the metro is essentially in the same predicament, but Missouri State High School Activities Association rules require every spring sports team to conduct 14 practices before the season starts. That forced teams to get creative in how they conduct workouts.
    “It’s unique,” Blue Springs boys track coach Joe Cusack said. “It’s the worst weather at the start of the season that I’ve seen since I’ve been a head coach or assistant coach. It was one of a kind.”
    The Wildcats’ problems were compounded by the boys and girls district basketball tournaments that were hosted at the high school during the first storm that hit February 21. So valuable floor space in the gym and practice facility, that the six spring programs were jostling for, was occupied.
    At least most squads were able to get some work in, assuming an appropriate facility was located. That was a little more difficult for golf teams. At Grain Valley, Andy Herbert’s team spent the first few days in a classroom watching instructional videos about the sport’s rules. Once the Eagles had all of that they could take, Herbert rigged up some putting greens in his classroom with pieces of turf and his team practiced chipping Whiffle balls at different targets.
    “We tried to get a little bit creative and get a few things done,” Herbert said. “And we tried not to bore them to death either. We had different competitions and different games set up to where they are at least doing something.”
    While the restless athletes were battling boredom, coaches are shouldering extra stress as they work out schedules to share the different facilities with other programs and scramble to get their teams somewhat prepared for the season, which starts next week for most schools.
    The Truman baseball team still hasn’t practiced on a field and the Patriots’ first game is Tuesday against Fort Osage. Truman coach John Eglich was forced to cut his tryouts, which were held in the gym, to three days instead of the usual four or five. And while the gym was suitable enough for pitching, hitting and taking grounders, but it’s impossible to evaluate outfield play indoors.
    “Everything is just thrown out of whack from tryouts to quality of practice,” Eglich said. “... You never feel prepared, but this is one year where I definitely don’t feel prepared.”
    Page 2 of 2 - All coaches agree, the quality of play is bound to suffer in the season’s first weeks. Eglich said there will likely be more errors and walks while track coaches are expecting slower times out of the gate.
    The nasty weather has yielded some surprising positives in a few cases, however. Fort Osage girls soccer coach Andrew Fletcher was able to practice with his team at the gym at Fire Prairie Middle School – where Indians assistant coach Scott Packe teaches. That’s wiped out 11-on-11 game situation stuff, but the Indians have increased their emphasis on the technical side of the game, running more passing, ball control and first- and second-touch drills.
    Fletcher said the indoor workouts have been so productive, he’s thinking of making them a permanent fixture of his program’s preseason.
    “I sat down with our assistant coaches and threw out that maybe we should spend the first week inside every year,” Fletcher said. “I don’t have to listen to the girls gripe about cold practices and it gives the grass field time to recover.”
    Fort girls track coach J.D. Snead has seen similar benefits with the time spent indoors. Snead, who coaches the pole vaulters, said he’s been able to pay attention to details during drills that normally get overlooked.
    It’s a tough spot for all teams to be in, but this preseason’s been about making the best of a chilly situation.
    “The advantage is you spend a lot of time explaining the technical aspect that if you’re outside, you might not take the time to do. ... I’ve done more drill work the first two weeks of practice than I’ve done in whole seasons, and I think that’s beneficial for some kids.”
    Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC

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