Mother Nature has put quite the damper on the early portion of the spring high school sports season in Warren County.
Friday saw every high school sporting event in the county wiped out by the inclement weather.
While the inconvenience of these postponements has been tough for athletes, coaches, and fans, the county's athletic directors have been working extra hard to keep the craziness to a minimum.
"Thirty-four of 44 events have had to be changed," said Warren Athletic Director Jeff White of Warren Area High School spring sports that include baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field. "We have played three tennis matches (one inside), two varsity baseball games, one varsity softball game, and one boys and girls track scrimmage. The softball game with Mercyhurst Prep has been re-scheduled at least five times (including after it was moved to the artificial turf field at Corry High School)."
Youngsville Athletic Director Joe McClellan said he has had to postpone the majority of the Eagles' events as well, saying, "Six out of eight" games have had to be re-scheduled, while Sheffield's Athletic Director, Corey Copley, has had to postpone "Five out of eight" events.
While re-scheduling the events is the most important task for the AD's, it certainly isn't the only task.
When facing a cancellation, the "to do" list varies from sport to sport, according to White.
For baseball and softball, the first task is to, "talk to the other schools athletic director to set up the new times and places," White said. "We then inform the coaches of the changes. If it is an away game, we must contact the bus company. If it is a home game, I must call the umpire assignor and the field maintenance crew. I also call the radio and the newspaper to let them know of the changes. A mass email is sent to communicate with most people that I can get in touch with. This includes principals, secretaries, and faculty at WAHS so that they know what is going on and who is leaving the building and at what time."
A track meet cancellation means, "referees, ticket takers, and time keepers must be alerted in addition to athletic directors and school officials," White said.
Copley also mentioned that "track meets are labor intensive and utilize more staff than other outdoor events".
McClellan described his responsibilities similarly.
"Early in the day, I am contacting the other school's athletic coordinator to discuss whether or not to postpone," McClellan said. "As soon as we decide to postpone, I alert the coaches via text message. Then I send out a blast e-mail to the staff of the school, the other athletic directors of the county, the person who assigns officials to the events, and the Erie and Warren newspapers. While I'm waiting for confirmations from all the parties involved, I begin looking for a future date that will be acceptable to move the event to."
While postponing events sounds as easy as making a phone call, re-scheduling can be much more difficult. "Postponing events is one thing, but rescheduling is another," Copley said.
Athletic Directors must follow certain guidelines when re-scheduling previously postponed events. Warren, Eisenhower and Youngsville compete in District 10.
District 10 has a rule that requires region games to be played before non-region games. White described the rule, saying, "By D-10 rules, we must play a region game on the next available play date."
McClellan went into further detail on the rule.
"If I am supposed to play baseball against a team in my region on Monday and a team from outside my region on Tuesday, the cancellation of the Monday region game automatically bumps the non-region game on Tuesday out of the way and we play the region game on Tuesday. That adds a wrinkle to scheduling because you can't automatically just look for an open date out in the future. Your options are more limited."
McClellan, who is in his first full year as athletic director at Youngsville, said, "As a first year athletic director, I can honestly say this spring is different than any other I have ever experienced (in any other capacity of high school sports)."
White, who is in his ninth year as AD at Warren, is no stranger to the re-scheduling process. "Last year we canceled 22 events to start the year and did not play our first baseball or softball game until April 4th," he said. "In 2011 we canceled 36 events by April 11th, and played our first baseball and softball games on April 12th. It all comes with living in northwestern Pennsylvania."
Copley, another veteran athletic director, said this spring is only slightly different.
"The early portion of the spring sport season is generally like this," said Copley. "The difference this season is that it looks like there is no end to either low temperatures and much rain and snow. The unusual weather patterns have been less predictable. Temperatures have changed so drastically from day-to-day - often 20-to-40 degree differences have been commonplace from one day to the next. I remember a few years ago we had many rainy days and an unusual number of events were postponed and more-than-usual events not made up. It's beginning to look like that may happen again if we are unable to start holding our events."
Despite all the work he and the other athletic directors have put in, White says the inclement weather has caused just as many problems for players, parents, and coaches.
"This is just as tough on the student-athletes who are ready to play and are stuck inside, the coaches who are constantly juggling their schedules and practice plans and even the parents who are trying to set up their work schedules so that they can get to their kids games," White said. "We will get in as many events as we can squeeze in."