Basketball games twice a week.
Usually on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Coaches, players and fans know what to expect and can make plans regarding their team.
Until Mother Nature decides to step in.
Once the temperature drops and the snow starts flying, schedules can be ruined and athletic directors can be buried in a blizzard of make-up contests.
With a handful of games getting rescheduled earlier in the year and back-to-back dates getting called throughout the region last Friday and Tuesday, we have the perfect storm for chaos when it comes to high school basketball.
“It’s a headache. All these games getting called and trying to reschedule them,” said second-year Battle Creek Central Athletic Director Mike VanHoven. “It’s been the worst season I’ve seen for this in the 10 years I’ve been an AD in Michigan.”
The area saw poor road conditions last week due to snow on Friday, which had every game on the schedule canceled. Some schools tried to play those games on Saturday, but another round of snow made that improbable.
Then crippling cold temperatures hit the region on Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday this week, with schools being closed and contests called off throughout the week.
The result will be a crowded basketball schedule the rest of the season, which could feature several three-game weeks for teams, and games being played on nearly any day of the week, including normally non-basketball nights such as Mondays and Saturdays.
“We are going to have our own little city tournament next week,” joked Harper Creek boys’ basketball coach Matt Bowling. “Next week, we will play Lakeview on Monday, come back and play Pennfield on Tuesday and then on Friday we get to go to Battle Creek Central.”
Having three games in a week could become the norm for many teams going forward and that’s only because the Michigan High School Athletic Association won’t let schools play four games in a week. That is, if you count that week to be from Monday to Sunday. If an athletic director gets desperate enough, he or she may have a game on Friday and Saturday at the end of one week, and then play Monday and Tuesday the following week – making four games in five days.
Pennfield isn’t in that situation, but Panther coach Steve Grimes is looking at two straight weeks of three games in a week.
“I counted the other day. For the rest of the season, we are going to have 11 games and just nine practices,” said Grimes, not counting weekends. “But the kids are more than ready to play these games. There could be a little fatigue at times, but they want to play them – even if it is three in a week. Every time we’ve had a game called off in the last few weeks, they’ve been really disappointed.”
Coaches and athletic directors are concerned with fatigue and putting too much on players, who also have to juggle academics and other interests during a possible three-game-per-week playing schedule. But there is also the reality of wanting to win games. Having so many contests in a week can hurt there also.
“It can be pretty tough on the kids and on us coaches, when you have to prep the kids in back-to-back situations. You can’t always go over everything you want in terms of getting ready for a game,” Bowling said. “Some days we can’t even have practice because of the weather, so we have been having our kids go on our scouting website and we give them some things to check out to get ready for the next game.
“Then we just have to play the games. Once we start doing that, we have to be able to change gears real quick and get the kids to put one game behind them as soon as it’s over so they can get ready for the next one.”
Gym space, which basketball teams have to share with wrestling teams and competitive cheer tournaments, is also an issue. Getting freshman and junior varsity games in is a challenge. Plus, athletic directors are looking at making decisions on if all the games can be made up, putting a priority on league games compared to non-league games.
It’s all the cold reality of how weather can freeze a season in its tracks, forcing everyone to adapt.
“Everybody is in the same boat. Everyone is looking for open dates to schedule games and get games in,” VanHoven said. “It’s bad.”