Spring sports, unlike any others, are slaves to the weather. Just look outside and you’ll see why.
By Per Peterson
Outside of the farming community, no one roots for an early spring more than Bill Tauer.
As Athletics/Activities Director at Tracy Area High School and manager of the TMB baseball team, an early spring — with warm March temperatures and quickly-fading snow — means not only can his team hit the field sooner, but all spring sports teams can as well. Cutting teams loose outside means less juggling when it comes to scheduling room and times for all the teams to practice.
“We are lucky to have the VMC (Veterans’ Memorial Center) downtown,” said Tauer, whose charges have twice practiced outside for a total of less than an hour. “Track has the high school gym, golf uses the elementary gym, junior high baseball and junior high softball are rotating practice days at the Ralco Gym in Balaton and the A and B baseball and softball teams coordinate early and late practices at the VMC. “The VMC is the next best thing to a field house for us.”
The school had been paying rent for the use of the VMC until July 2016, Tauer said. The school and the city signed an agreement that the school would not pay rent from 2016-2028 (12 years), and in return the school would pay for the new hardwood floor, bleachers, painting, acoustical panels and other items.
The track and field team uses the gym and the school’s hallways for running and conditioning, but track and field as a whole is about more than running, and duplicating field events like pole vault, the long and triple jumps, and shot and discuss is virtually impossible.
“We simply can’t mimic the exact atmosphere for almost all field events, especially long/triple jump,” said track and field coach Marie Hanson. “We can get high jump and pole vault pits out, but it’s difficult to get to full speed without spikes on. We also can’t throw discuss at all inside for obvious safety reasons. Starts and exchanges are also difficult without the track.”
The baseball and softball teams’ practices are on a rotating basis at the VMC, switching off between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. start times. That’s where the batting cage is located, and that’s the only place in town either team can get their cuts in until they get outside.
“Having to go early/late practices can make for a long day when you have the late practice,” said softball coach Karl Campbell. “With that said, the attitudes of the kids have been great.”
With a growing team, TMB golf coach Roger Benson has had to rotate the varsity and junior high teams’ practices, meaning his golfers can practice only every other day.
“However, it does allow (assistant Brian) Michelson and I a chance to work more with each athlete,” said Benson. “Although they may be practicing a little less, they really are getting more instruction because we can spend more time with each person.”
It could be worse, Benson said.
“I know there are other schools that need to practice inside their clubhouse and are limited to the number of students that can be practicing at one time,” he said. “They only have one or two individual golf nets to hit into.”
For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.