How some high school teams handled a stormy spring seasonJun 02, 2023 09:43AM ● By Travis Barton
When the end of February arrived and tryouts started for spring sports, most took place inside with snow still covering the infields, tracks and pitches.
Not really out of the ordinary as winter can occasionally linger.
Then as March plowed on and players looked at their weather app, they continued to see snow in the forecast, postponing games, forcing them inside. And forcing athletic directors to play a scheduling jigsaw puzzle with gym space to ensure soccer, lacrosse, softball, baseball and track and field all had practice time inside.
Even when April arrived, spring was put on hold as snow accumulated so much it canceled in-person school, let alone a baseball game.
With teams shuttered indoors, coaches had to find ways to make practice time productive. The first objective: shaping the attitude.
Riverton High softball coach Katelyn Elliott said they focused on how they can use their time in the gym to get better, that part is within their control.
Everyone from Santaquin to Logan was in the same situation, she told the team, so instead of throwing a pity party or complaining about practicing in the gym, how can they develop themselves.
“You can’t control that there’s 4 feet of snow outside,” she said. “Let’s just take what we have. We have two hours in the gym each day, and we’re going to make the best of it.”
Elliott and her team focused on realistic game scenarios they could practice like leadoffs, tags, signs or bunt scenarios.
“If we have our signs down, things like that the controllable things we can work on in a gym, and we don’t have to work on that in April, we can go out and work on ground balls and flyballs,” she said.
While the Olympus softball team still spent hours in the batting cages, it also utilized time by drilling down on the mental side of the sport.
Head coach Jackson White said they brought in a team psychologist to speak about conflict resolution. The team would read articles every Friday as a group about team building or mental toughness. One article was called the Champions Mindset, he said, that focused on giving your best every play, and if your mind is still on a previous mistake, then you can’t give your best on that play.
“We were able to get a lot of growth mentally without having to see it physically inside,” he said. “It was a game changer to just kind of teach them how to be good teammates and do drills that was about talking to each other or listening to each other rather than catching a fly ball inside for the 100th time.”
White said that mental preparation was important when their shortstop broke her foot forcing them to retool their defense.
Olympus senior catcher Sofia Conlon said the mental work inside unified them in way as they learned how to grow together.
“Being inside is really hard, it’s not the same as being on a field so working together as a team mentally made us tighter,” she said. “It pulls us closer and helps us outside for sure.”
Many baseball and softball teams traveled to St. George in March for tournaments while others traveled to Nevada (Riverton baseball) or California (Brighton boys lacrosse and Jordan baseball) during spring breaks.
Skyline and Olympus baseball teams are located high on the east bench with snow on their fields slower to melt. They chose to relocate their three-game series to Dixie High School in St. George. Skyline didn’t have its first outdoor practice until the second week in April.
Golf’s season was essentially shortened to several weeks from mid-April to May 9. Riverton High golf coach Trish Marshall said they practiced outside when they could—layered up with coats, jackets, hats and gloves—but were often just hitting off mats at Mulligan’s covered driving range. They even practiced in her classroom, putting on the carpet or chipping over boxes and books into garbage bins.
“We had to get creative,” she said.
Scheduling affected the season as well with the Alta High boys soccer team opening its season with a region game against Lehi, a rematch of last year’s 5A state title game before eventually playing its nonregion opponents later. Other regions saw soccer teams play a region opponent in back-to-back games like Brighton had to do with both Olympus and Skyline.
Murray High boys soccer coach Bryan DeMann said at one point they spent a whole week practicing inside playing small-sided games or futsal tournaments focused on getting touches.
“It is hard to simulate soccer on a basketball floor with 30 boys,” he said.
Though Murray had the unique situation of its field being cleared quicker than any other in their region (all are located closer to the mountains, including Park City). They only had one region game rescheduled, but had to reverse some fixtures which meant they played most of their home games during the first round of region play. Only one home game (senior night) was played in the second round of region.
“We were lucky,” he said. λ