By Jay Young
Spending any amount of time in Western New York during the winter months, you are forced to come to a realization.
No matter what you do, you can't fight the weather.
Snow drifts and freezing temperatures don't care what your plans are-they are going to have to wait.
That has certainly been the attitude of high school athletic directors throughout Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties as a recent polar storm has forced school closings and game cancellations across the region.
Now with dozens of postponements looming overhead, schools will look to edit their schedules for boys and girls basketball, wrestling, bowling and swimming.
"It has really been the same for every school in the area, having to cancel school on Monday and Tuesday and games this week," noted Chautauqua Lake athletic director Josh Liddell. "For me it has been simple to make some phone calls and get it done as quickly as possible, we always contact our coaches and work with them to make sure that they are OK with new dates and times."
He added, "The big thing is that all of the [athletic directors] from around the area are on the same page.''
While lake-effect snow and isolated weather often causes school closings, our most recent storm has affected all of Section 6 with sub-zero temperatures, which is unusual.
This widespread pocket of severe weather has presented a new challenge for area athletic directors, who are now looking to fit in cancelled games before season-ending deadlines.
Of course missing games and practices presents a whole new challenge to coaches and players.
"It really hasn't been too bad for our schedule, like tonight we only had two events that have to be rescheduled," noted Falconer's Dave Nelson on Wednesday. "Luckily there is still plenty of room to fit games in, the main disadvantage has been a loss in practice time for some teams. Plenty of kids are prepared for not having practice, like wrestlers who have to make weight, but for less-experienced teams it can be an issue."
In response to challenges with getting practice time, more experienced teams often turn to self-run practices in order to stay ready for the season.
"Unfortunately we can't practice when school is off," said Jamestown athletic director and boys basketball coach Ben Drake. "But a lot of our guys go to the YMCA on days off to play, which helps, but it does put a little bit more pressure on everyone to find time to practice and work on things that we need."
For Drake, having an experienced team of self-reliant players means less headaches when games and practices get called off, but not everyone is so lucky.
"Some lesser experienced teams may be at more of a disadvantage, you want to try and put new things into your game at this time of the year, which is hard if you don't have practice time," Drake said.
While players, coaches, and athletic directors all have their own challenges, game officials also present a new obstacle for changing schedules. With some sports already shorthanded on referees, changes from weather can cause a whole new set of problems.
"We work with league assigners to make sure that the officials are still able to do their games at new times,"noted Liddell. "The real problem can come up when you have to reschedule an entire tournament, but luckily that hasn't come up."
Here's hoping that luck holds for the rest of the winter seasons and area sports fans can get back to cheering on their teams.