Instead, the showers and dampness kept reminding us that the cold winter of 2004 wasn't ready to give up so easily. Like kids pinned inside by a week of Arctic misery, we pressed our collective faces against the window pane hoping that the local spring sports games might be played under more ideal conditions.

Thoughts ran through the mind like water droplets on the window glass as we considered the past and tried to look into the future. I share some of these musings with you as we prepare for sunnier days.

I would like to lobby for a later start for high school spring sports with a concluding date that ends in mid-June. Like many problems in high school athletics, the emphasis is on convenience for the PIAA and their hallowed district and state playoff system. Amazingly enough they have managed to work around the conflicts with the football schedules after pressure was applied.

We're not saying it would be easy but it is possible to consider the thousands of athletes whose season ends in the middle of May and who are sacrificed for the few teams that compete beyond the district level.

One key for the governing state organization is to forget the joke of rigid starting dates. This year the magic target was April 8 that coincided with the onset of bad weather. The week before was ideal for the young athletes to practice without getting frostbite.

As all coaches know, the inflexibility of arbitrary rules only penalize the schools who follow them. The majority of programs circumvent these rules by having "conditioning," open instruction (everybody welcome) or individual skill sessions. In other words, teaching kids how to cheat in some cases.

So how can we have a league schedule that begins later and also finishes later. The PAC-10 organization has been making great strides to cut back the required 18 games in some sports. Baseball and softball are two that are slated to continue the experiment that was begun in field hockey and soccer last fall.

The shorter schedule makes sense especially for the spring sports which requires home and away contests. This would permit the athletics directors to allow more preseason practice time plus arrange scrimmages or non-league games with outside teams. If bad weather forces a postponement these contests need not be made up.

It always seemed rather silly to have beautiful weather in early June at a time when students could have enjoyed their baseball, softball, lacrosse, track and tennis only to have their schedules completed except for one or two teams.

As was mentioned above, early rounds of district playoffs could be inserted during late May even as they are now. Boys tennis often has their individual singles and doubles tournaments set before the league schedules are completed.

District team competition may begin before all league matches are completed. If several teams with excellent records are fighting for the title let the district match also count as the league match. A seeding committee makes an arbitrary ranking for the tournament anyway.

Track also may have their league meet before all the dual or tri-meets are completed. With three teams competing, this sport doesn't have the problem to the extent of the others. Track coaches have the advantage of times and measurements so often may include more novice athletes in an event against weaker opponents thus giving them competitive experience.

Lacrosse also has the opportunity for a more flexible late season schedule. One of the goals of any coach is to allow underclassmen to get playing time. With free substitution there is more chance to rest the "stars" especially when the contest is one-sided.

Thus baseball and softball are the two stumbling blocks to a late April, May and June season. The shortened league schedule would help solve that problem. Of course, there may be a string of bad weather days later but the odds are against it. Plus there wouldn't be a ton of make-up games to consider.

However, the best solution is a perfect weather spring!

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