John F. Russell: Driving into spring sports
March 21, 2016
Steamboat Springs — I didn't wake up at 6 a.m. last Saturday morning planning to make an hour-plus drive to Kremmling, turn around and drive another hour back home.
But that's exactly what I did.
We were headed for Denver that morning for my daughter's first soccer game of the season. But the team manager had called me just outside of Kremmling to let us know that there was no game that day.
I'm surprised that when I returned home a few hours later I didn't have a greeting card welcoming me to the wonderful world of spring sports in Colorado posted on the front door of my home.
I love springtime, but let’s face the facts. This is the season when no game is safe, plans can be changed in the time it takes a cell phone to ring and nothing is ever guaranteed.
It's a season that normally starts with lots of travel for the Steamboat teams. It requires that parents and athletes accept that some games will not happen as planned, and it's important to remember to be flexible.
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As a sports reporter, I got used to the cycle after more than 25 years of covering sports in our town.
One year I drove to Meeker for a track meet only to find out that it had been cancelled when I arrived. Luckily for me, there was a soccer game just down the road in Glenwood, so instead of driving home, I headed to that game. At the end of a very long day, I jumped back on I-70, drove to Wolcott and circled back home.
Personally, I was OK with it, but that happened to be the day my father-in-law decided to tag along with me to watch the track meet. I think he got more than he bargained for, and if I remember correctly, that was the last time he ever accompanied me.
In the good old days, I didn't mind the spring weather because it was the quietest season with only a handful of sports to cover. But things have changed in Steamboat.
Back then, all the different sports teams trained inside the high school at the start of the season and were lucky to get outside for training before graduation rolled around. There were days when the soccer team was using the basketball court, and the track teams were running hurdles in the hallway. It was a time before baseball, lacrosse, tennis and golf.
Today, there are more sports, more athletes and more home events. The artificial surface of the high school football field has helped reduce the number of cancelled games and allowed teams to practice outside earlier in the season.
But that doesn't mean that there are not times when the weather outside is so nasty not even a surface made out of shredded Bridgestone Blizzaks can provide enough traction to keep the schedule on track.
There will be times when the weather will make it impossible to play at Steamboat — as well as places like Denver.
I understand, like most people in Steamboat, that outdoor sports will always be impacted by the weather outside. Turf fields and indoor training facilities might help ease the number of cancelled games but not the disappointment that is felt when a game is nixed.
As a native of this wonderful state you might think I would have accepted the unpredictable nature of weather and its impacts. But I'm sad to say that I'm a slow learner.
I still get disappointed when a softball game gets called due to the weather, and I'll never forget the year the state bowling tournament was postponed by an April storm that dumped several feet of snow in the Denver area.
I mistakenly thought the event was safe because it took place inside, but that was the year I learned that no event is completely safe. The roof of one of the bowling houses that was hosting the tournament collapsed, the tournament was pushed back several weeks, and our team elected not to go that year.
There is no question that Mother Nature has frustrated more than a few athletes over the years. I understand that when we play games outside there are going to be days and times when the weather is going to get in the way. But that didn't stop me from getting a little grumpy as we picked up something to eat and drink and began our journey back to Steamboat this past Saturday.
The good news is that it is spring, and the weather is only going to get better. And we should all celebrate the fact that springs sports are once again here to play — that is if Mother Nature doesn't have other plans.
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