When snow days hit the South, many students wake up ready to hit the fresh powder and revel in the “mythical” snow day that rears its head maybe once every four years.
For coaches, snow days elicit a different kind of emotion – worry – as the power and control they have over their programs is swept out the door as the biting winter wind swoops in.
Local coaches around the county dealt with Winter Storm Leon like an uninvited in-law, patiently waiting for their visitor to leave so they could get back on the hardwood.
As the snow and ice recede, many teams will get back to action Friday night, but that doesn’t mean the storm didn’t have an impact, even if its stopover was fleeting.
“I don’t think this has ever happened,” Newton varsity boys coach Rick Rasmussen said. “It will be our longest period without practice this season. My kids haven’t touched a ball since Monday. We’ve never had three days off in a row, even during Christmas break. This is uncharted territory.”
Rasmussen and his coaching colleagues have a right to be concerned. With school canceled since Tuesday afternoon, teams had to reschedule Tuesday night games and haven’t been able to practice since last weekend.
The Rams were forced to rearrange a crucial region contest against Luella, postponing the game until Feb. 8, while Alcovy also had to reschedule a home contest against Lovejoy.
With the end of the season drawing near, that means that teams will have to force four or five games into a 10- day schedule.
“When school shuts down, we can’t play and we can’t practice,” Rasmussen said. “It’s the first time ever, in my 16 years at Newton, that we’ll play a Friday night and Saturday night game back-to-back when we haven’t practiced in three days.
“We’ve had snowstorms before where we have had to move games around,” he said. “I know at one time we played four or five games in seven days and we ended up playing eight games in a two-week span. It looks like we’re heading into that kind of situation. I don’t mind, though. We won seven out of those eight – I thought it was great.”
The Alcovy Lady Tigers face the same fate as Newton, returning to action Saturday after having played their last game on Jan. 24.
Alcovy coach David Baker said that he expects the Lady Tigers’ conditioning to hold up at this point in the season, but he hopes that the team returns with the same sharpness that has allowed it to win two of its last three contests.
“As far as how the weather is going to affect our team, I just worry that it’s going to affect our consistency,” Baker said.
“Conditioning wise, we’re going to be fine, but when you’re not in a game or in practice, sometimes you lose that crispness in your passes or your confidence in your shot. We’re missing days without drilling and without playing and that can take you out of your focus.”
Baker is no stranger to the snow. A former middle school coach from Detroit, Baker said he’s quite use to the wintery mix that shutout much of the region this week.
“This is nothing new for me,” Baker said. “How much we got this week, however, has been rare since I’ve been living here. We’re just ready to pick up and play and look forward to the end of the season and reaching the region tournament. We’re trying to make the best out of it right now, even with the weather.”
Newton girls varsity basketball coach Tiffani Johnson said the time off reminded her of her college coach and a saying that he preached to Johnson often.
“I was always told in college that it only takes three days to get out of shape,” Johnson said. “I can hear my old college coach screaming that now. With school being canceled due to the weather, it definitely kills any chance to practice and say in shape.
“I don’t like giving my players too many days off,” she said. “I have had to reschedule games in the past because of weather, but I don’t remember having to cancel all activity for three days.”
The Lady Rams were expected to return to the court tonight against rival Rockdale County, but bad weather once again curtailed Newton's chances of getting on the court. The Lady Bulldogs sit just 2.5 games behind Newton in the region standings, and Johnson said she hopes the Lady Rams’ extra time to prepare comes in handy, whether its against the Lady Bulldogs tonight or Woodland on Saturday.
“Having three days off and coming back to an important rival, region game will definitely be a test of will and want to,” Johnson said.
“My players will be watching film and communicating with each other and coaches to stay as focused as possible. Hopefully the extra film time will give players an opportunity better recognize team and individual strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, it will allow us to identify the same for our opponents.”
Baker said he hopes the Lady Tigers keep a “basketball state of mind.”
“I hope the girls are at least watching basketball,” he said.
Newton's contest tonight against Rockdale County has been postponed due to inclement weather. A make up date has not been scheduled.
Eastide hosts rival Alcovy Saturday at 5 p.m.