Improvising spring sports
In the 51 years Greg Gile has been coaching high school golf, he has never witnessed a spring quite like this one.
“I don’t remember ever not being able to get outside for this long,” the coach said last week.
“And I really think it’s going to be at least two more weeks before we do. And that’s not even factoring in the possibility of rain days.”
Spring sports have the advantage over other sport seasons in that they can take place on a gorgeous day with the sun shining.
Or, as is the case this year, spring sports can also be at a definite disadvantage if Mother Nature fires a nasty curveball.
Gile is trying his best to stave off boredom among the indoor golfers.
“We’ve been over to Brau Brothers in Marshall a few times now to use their golf simulators,” said Gile.
“We bring about 14 kids over there to work on different shots. Each golfer swings about five times and then lets the next golfer hit so no one is standing around a lot.”
Inside the gym, Gile has come up with a few innovative ways to keep attention spans sharp while also honing their various golf skills as much as possible.
He keeps his practices short, too, to compensate for short attention spans.
“About an hour in the gym and then I send them home,” he said.
He also attempts to simulate golf conditions as much as possible with makeshift equipment indoors.
“We have about 500 rubber golf balls that I ordered,” he said. “They came from China and were a lot cheaper than the ones in the U.S.”
The rubber balls can travel approximately 75 yards when hit.
“They hook and slice just like a normal golf ball,” Gile said. “And I’ve got some carpet samples that we put down to hit off from. Then we put some garbage cans in the gym and the kids have to chip and make one or two balls in a garbage can.”
The golf team also utilizes putting machines it acquired that will kick the ball back to the person putting. Those are used in the hallways during practice.
It’s not just the coaches and players who anxious for the “real” spring to show up. Activities Director Matt Myrvik has had to spend additional time this spring in rescheduling events, informing bus drivers of any postponed trips, and finding time and space for indoor practices.
“So far, we have postponed or moved two baseball games, one softball game, and two junior high baseball games, two junior high softball games, the Marshall boys’ and girls’ golf meet and JV golf,” Myrvik said.
“So far the only thing that has been canceled was our home junior high baseball tournament.”
And with the recent snowstorm on Sunday, it does not bode well for this week either.
“Next week is looking like everything will be postponed, too,” said Myrvik on Sunday.
“Right now, all the schools are in the same position with trying to reschedule games or find open dates to make up events.”
“Justin Knutson with the 4.0 bus company has been very helpful with moving the bus schedules around. We just try and go over everything weekly, so we make sure we are on the same page.”
Currently, the golf team has been practicing indoors at St. Edward’s, while the baseball and softball team share the Minneota gym.
The track team practices in Canby.
The Canby-Minneo“Not being able to get outside to practice and having meets cancelled makes it very difficult to keep the athletes motivated,” said Track Coach Sara Hemish.
“The one thing we have going for us is the team knows we have a lot of potential this year, which keeps the kids working hard so when we get to compete, they can be ready.”
It can also be difficult being cooped up indoors for baseball and softball players and coaches.
“For softball, everything is more challenging indoors,” said Softball Coach Heidi Boerboom. “Nothing really is the same as it is out on the real field.”
“It’s a little disappointing to be in the gym and not playing,” said Baseball Coach Keven Larson. “But we are not using the word frustrating a whole lot when we talk about it.”
“The main reason is that we can’t control it, and it just makes the attitudes worse if we get frustrated about the things we can’t control.”
In both softball and baseball, pitchers can keep their arms in shape, but the mechanics can take longer to fine tune because there is no pitching rubber or mound to throw from.
“You can pitch (indoors), but you don’t get the feel of pushing off the rubber and dragging your foot through the dirt,” said Boerboom.
It’s not much better for the other position players or hitters either.
“Pop flies in a gym are nothing like ones moving in the wind,” said Boerboom. “Grounders off a wooden floor with a ‘soft’ ball just don’t bounce the same.”
Larsen feels pitchers and hitters are at an equal disadvantage when getting outside later, rather than sooner.
“As far as hitter or pitchers, I think that it’s about the same,” he explained. “The pitchers will be more in game shape, but won’t have faced live hitters. The hitters will have honed their swings a bit more, but won’t have faced live pitching. We just have to keep preparing as if we were playing in a few days, even though we know that it will be a little while yet.”
Coaches are attempting to make practices as interesting and beneficial as possible, knowing other teams are in similar situations and don’t hold any advantages.
“We are all in the same situation and there is absolutely nothing that we can do to change the situation,” said Boerboom.
“No sense getting upset. We continue to work on fundamentals and game situations as best we can.”
The distance runners in track are able to practice running outdoors on most days, Hemish said, while others do what they can to prepare for the season.
“The sprinters, jumpers and throwers end up doing a lot of plyometric workouts while we are stuck in the gym,” she said. “There are also some drills we can do to help improve footwork and other things for the field events.”
Larsen tries to keep things fresh with his baseball squad by switching the things they work on in practices, as well as practice times.
“We work on small skills each practice,” he said. “And we talk about getting better and healthier with each passing day.”
Another drawback for the teams is they aren’t able to practice every day like they would outside either, due to sharing gym space.
“A little break from indoor practices is okay,” Boerboom said. “The biggest letdown, I think, is the fun component. A little sunshine and vitamin D makes us all a whole lot happier.”
There are little or no advantages to practicing a sport indoors during harsh springs, other than staying dry and warm on inclement days.
Besides, yelling “Fore” inside a crowded gym is like yelling “Fire” inside a crowded restaurant.ta track team is the only spring sports team that has been able to participate in an event so far this spring, but both of their meets were indoors and with a limited number of events.