Four of Butch Zike’s years at Whiteland had him doubling as athletic director and head baseball coach.
So he’s better qualified than most to speak to the unpredictable and often frustrating nature of spring sports scheduling.
“What most people don’t understand is spring sports have the most events,” said Zike, who retired from Whiteland after the 2011-12 school year and is now the softball coach at Franklin College.
“At Whiteland, we would have almost 30 events a week, home and away. It’s probably equally frustrating to ADs and coaches.”
Story continues below gallery
Unseasonably cold temperatures, rain, snow and high winds — sometimes all in the same day — are keeping high school athletic directors busy adjusting their spring sports schedules based on opponent and umpire availability.
Defending boys golf state champion and top-ranked Center Grove had two season-opening meets cancelled on Saturday — the Hall of Fame Tournament in Peru and the Floyd Central Invitational — after a dual match against Plainfield was wiped out earlier last week.
Before Saturday, coach Matt Rodman’s squad managed to play just six practice rounds over 16 days.
“For the older kids, it’s really not that difficult, but for the younger kids it’s more of an issue,” Rodman said. “They are trying to get the consistency of what high school golf expects. It’s hard to have that when you practice only a couple days a week.
“It’s just something we work with. Fortunately, it’s the early part of the season the weather has an impact, not the end when we’re trying to fine-tune our skills for the state tournament.”
The Indianapolis area normally averages a total of 13.2 inches of precipitation during the months of April, May and June. But this year has been crazier than most. With 10 inches of snow getting dumped on most of Johnson County in late March and frequent rainfall hitting the already saturated ground ever since, scheduling has been tougher than ever.
The county baseball tournament, for example, was supposed to have been completed on Saturday. But cold weather forced the postponement of those scheduled semifinals and finals — just as well, given that the first-round game between Indian Creek was interrupted by snow on Friday. That game likely won’t be completed until April 23, with the rest of the tourney on hold as a result.
Greenwood baseball coach Andy Bass is one of several spring coaches nearing his wit’s end.
“We’ve been on the field five times this spring for practice; that’s it,” Bass said. “You can hit inside, but we’ve been doing that all winter. These kids are sick of being indoors — they want to be outside — but what do you do?
“Twenty-two years of coaching and a lot of years playing, I don’t remember a spring like this where it’s snowing regularly in April.”
In the early 2000s, the Mid-State Conference, which includes county schools Franklin, Greenwood and Whiteland, devised a plan that would make rescheduling easier after baseball and softball postponements.
Conference games are now played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with Thursdays open as a rainout date.
“It didn’t make it easy, but it made it easier,” Zike said.
The Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, which includes Center Grove, instituted a similar format when founded in 1996. Through Saturday, seven Trojan events already had been postponed this spring, with another four cancelled altogether.
“We go to the next available date. It does work pretty well, but this is probably the worst spring weather I can remember in a long, long time,” said Jon Zwitt, Center Grove’s athletics director since the 1992-93 school year.
If cold temperatures are the lone hindrance, Zwitt uses 40 degrees as the cutoff point as to whether or not Trojan teams play.
“Once you get below 40, it’s not pleasant, so why are you doing it?” Zwitt said.
At Roncalli, second-year athletic director David Lauck has a vested interest in when games are played — he’s also the Rebels’ softball coach.
Lauck doesn’t implement a so-called temperature rule for spring sports at his school.
“Thirty-five (degrees) and sunny with no wind feels vastly different than 35, cloudy and 20 mile-per-hour winds,” Lauck said. “The hardest as an AD is finding common dates with opponents and dancing around spring breaks.”
Roncalli’s situation is unique. It remains in school during Holy Week and is currently on spring break until April 16. Most of the Rebels’ public-school opponents are on a balanced calendar and began break as early as March 19.
Athletes and coaches, too, are affected by the unknowns of the weather.
In some cases, players are dressed and have gone through their customary pregame routines when a game is postponed. What they thought was going to be a game in many cases turns into a practice.
“Weather, unfortunately, has been like a third opponent this year,” Franklin baseball coach Ryan Feyerabend said. “I feel it has a big effect on the player, especially when it’s this early in the season.
“The players have been inside all winter, and they’re just ready to get outside and play. Going back inside for practices is something that most players don’t really look forward to all that much.”
Another problem, more so in baseball than in softball, is that postponements wind up back-loading the schedule and creating problems for teams that often don’t have enough pitchers to handle the crunch.
“When you start having all these weather cancellations,” Bass said, “you get weeks where you’ve got four or five games, and we’re not an MLB staff with 15 arms — we can’t do it.”
Teams have made it work in springs past, but this year is proving to be a particularly difficult one to navigate.
“We just got the trifecta this year of wind, cold and rain, which hardly ever happens,” Zwitt said.