Mansfield-snow photo

The baseball field adjacent to Mansfield Stadium, home to the Madison Memorial and Madison West baseball teams, was covered with snow early this week.

Waunakee boys golf coach Betsy Zadra watched as another tournament was postponed — this time, by sleet, snow and cold in mid-April.

So, she rounded up her team and took them for a driving lesson. Zadra then watched as the Warriors hit Monday afternoon at Vitense Golfland — striking golf balls toward targets on the snow-covered driving range.

“I wish I was coaching in Arizona,” she said, then laughed. “They wish they were in Arizona.”

The Waunakee golfers, like their counterparts in all the other spring sports in the area, felt disappointment and frustration due to lack of play caused by frigid temperatures and inclement weather, including snow, which fell again this past weekend.

But Zadra remained upbeat despite the Warriors only competing in two meets this season, including a Badger North Conference mini-meet last week.

“It makes them tough,” she said. “I tell them, `You can’t control the weather. Just deal with whatever you are given. You have to be ready at any given time.’ Isn’t that what life is all about? Dealing with the cards you are dealt? It teaches them to be resilient and that at the spur of the moment, you have to be ready. These are life lessons.”

True. But the cold, hard (and snowy) facts are that much more of this bad weather will put scheduling for the spring sports regular season in further peril.

“We are there at critical mass now,” Stoughton athletic director Mel Dow said. “We are dumping non-conference events to get conference events in.”

Athletic directors have reached a point where conference games will take priority, meaning non-conference games will be eliminated as events need to be rescheduled.

Madison Memorial athletic director Jeremy Schlitz said the unknown of when events actually can be held makes rescheduling, finding officials and setting up transportation a major challenge.

Scheduling creativity will be necessary if there are too many games and too few dates.

More doubleheaders in baseball (seven-inning or five-inning doubleheaders) and softball might be an option. More postponed games could be rescheduled on Wednesdays, usually an off night.

Dow said playing on Sundays generally is discouraged. But Schlitz said even that could become a topic for local school boards if bad weather persists.

“It’s one of those things where it becomes a logjam,” Dow said about rescheduling. “It’s just not logs, either. It’s all sorts of debris.”

Transportation for the teams must be rescheduled and more buses need to be sent out when events stack up each day. Athletic directors face competition from each other when racing to line up officials, umpires and referees to work rescheduled events. School grounds crews are tasked with not only making sure parking lots and sidewalks are cleared and safe, but working (sometimes with coaches) to get fields and tracks ready for competition.

Schlitz said he expected scheduling to be discussed by area athletic directors at Wednesday’s district meeting in Dodgeville.

“My first thought is that I don’t see how athletic directors did this job before computers,” said Mount Horeb athletic director Kolleen Nesheim, after spending the first 4½ hours of her day Monday sending out and responding to about 100 emails while trying to reschedule games, find officials and reallocate gym times. “I canceled all the non-conference games this week. The priority has to be conference games right now. You feel bad that all the kids aren’t getting their opportunities.”

That includes lost practices and games, sometimes to events with overnight stays that would have resulted in enjoyable team-bonding experiences.

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“It’s a puzzle and we don’t have a good answer or all the pieces to the puzzle,” Schlitz said.

Doug Maughan, the Sun Prairie boys and girls track and field coach, joked on Twitter that new spring events should be snowshoe relays and toboggan relays.

“Mother Nature is undefeated,” Maughan said. “She’s never lost.”

Maughan constantly monitors his phone for the weather forecast and said he has spent an inordinate amount of time conferring with baseball coach Rob Hamilton and softball coach Jamie Olson about sharing the Cardinals’ field house for practices.

Unable to go outside, Maughan’s indoor practices have included swimming pool and weight-room workouts and relay handoffs done in hallways. He planned a team-bonding event for Tuesday — taking the Cardinals bowling at Prairie Lanes following cancellation of a meet.

“We are remaining optimistic with the kids,” Maughan said. “The coaches are like a barometer for them. If we are staying focused and upbeat, the athletes will do so, too.”

Dow said other springs have had more intense weather, but this spring seems more drawn out with the cold temperatures and rain, sleet and snow.

“The most unique part has been a total loss of the first four weeks of spring competition in all our sports,” Schlitz said.

Said Nesheim: “My coaches are starting to get a little nervous. But everyone is in the same boat.”

But Nesheim — noting record snowfalls in northern Wisconsin, including Green Bay — said, “It could be worse.” She received an inquiry from a Minocqua coach willing to travel the four hours to play the Mount Horeb girls soccer team.

“I’d love to help him out, but I can’t,” she said. “I have to get in the conference games.”

Mount Horeb’s school teams receive top priority and when Nesheim scheduled school teams for gymnasium time because they couldn’t go outside, she had to bump a recreation department camp and AAU team practice.

“We aren’t very fancy in Mount Horeb,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of gyms.”

An example of the lack of games played: A tweet from Middleton girls soccer Monday indicated its six teams totaling 140 girls had played only four games a month into the season and two of the teams had yet to play.

“We just need people to wish us luck,” the normally upbeat Dow said. “I’m almost speechless. I saw there was snow and rain forecast for Wednesday and I thought, `You’ve got to be kidding me.’ ’’

The fields will need to recover, but the forecast appears better after Wednesday. Maughan believes Sun Prairie will be able to host its track and field invitational Friday. Maughan was taking calls from coaches of northern Wisconsin teams hoping to compete at Friday’s meet; he had to see how many teams organizers could accommodate.

And Zadra is optimistic her team will be on a course next week and won’t be playing golf on simulators or hitting balls into the snow at a driving range.

“I feel bad for everyone in spring sports,” Maughan said. “They have four years to compete. Kids don’t get a redshirt to compete ”


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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.