By Jim Riggs, Sports Editor
The winter weather in Western New York is always a problem for high school sports teams and this season has been no different.
But there has been a difference.
Over the years plenty of games have been postponed when schools were closed because of snow which caused hazardous driving conditions. But recently schools were closed, and therefore games were postponed, because of severe cold.
That left the teams looking out the window at driving conditions that were fine, but there was no game because their school was closed.
It was similar to an extremely wet spring a few years ago when it was sunny and clear outside and baseball and softball teams couldn't play because of unplayable fields.
''I've had my baseball coach or softball coach come into my office and say, 'The sun's out, let's play today,''' Southwestern athletic director Kevin Salisbury recalled. ''And I'd say it rained for the last week.''
But the recent closings because of cold temperatures were new for Salisbury.
''I can't remember, even as a kid living in the area, of us closing school because of the temperature, especially a couple of days in a row,'' Salisbury said. ''That was weird.''
And it reminded him of the spring sports scenario.
''We were off and I was home with my kids and I look out the window and not only were we off school, but it didn't snow a whole lot,'' Salisbury said. ''It was beautiful blue skies and sunshine and I remember thinking this doesn't look good that we're off today until I went outside and then I thought I'm glad we are off today.''
Mark Petersen battled the problem as both the Cassadaga Valley athletic director and the girls basketball coach.
''It made my winter sports monthly calendar look like the springtime,'' Petersen said. ''It threw a major curveball at us.''
He added, ''It's frustrating. We were out three (straight) days. It made it tough. We lost a couple (of games) and each day by 8 o'clock (in the morning) each of those days it was blue skies and sunshine.''
Cassadaga Valley is one of many schools with the policy that if classes are canceled, the building can't be used for the entire day.
''We weren't allowed in the building while some teams (at other schools) are,'' Petersen said. ''Policy is policy and its something you have to follow.''
But he noted one of his opponents had its school closed, but its teams were allowed to practice.
''They hadn't missed a beat as far as having their kids in the gym,'' Petersen said.
Jamestown didn't have a big problem with cold-weather postponements, according to athletic director and boys basketball coach Ben Drake.
''We were actually fortunate because they left our high school open during those days,'' he said. ''They closed our elementary schools, but they kept the high school open because it was Regents week, so we were still able to have our practices and games. So we weren't really affected by it, but everybody else was.''
And the Red Raiders had about the only game in town, or out of town.
''The funny thing is we're driving to the games and the cold isn't a factor,'' Drake said. ''Normally you have school canceled because of the snow, but because of the cold temperatures, most people weren't playing games. It's an oddity.''
And there was another reason Jamestown didn't have a lot of postponements.
''We actually didn't have many contests scheduled that week because it was Regents week, so we probably could have had more canceled,'' Drake said.
Southwestern and Falconer had another wrench thrown into the works during that cold spell.
''We were scheduled on Tuesday to play the Falconer-Frewsburg combined team in (boys) basketball and we were going to reschedule it for Wednesday,'' Salisbury said. ''But Frewsburg was closed on Wednesday and we couldn't do that.''
Falconer AD Dave Nelson said, ''It took us four hours to reschedule that. That was a long day.''
That's because it involved three schools for one game, not two.
In that cold stretch, Falconer was able to get in a wrestling meet even though school had been closed that day.
''With some of this goofy weather there has been some creativity,'' Nelson said. ''We're coming up with new ideas.''
A couple of times, schools actually announced their closings the previous night which was a big help.
''It definitely helps,'' Nelson said. ''Any (early) notice we can get is a big plus. Time is very precious to us small-school ADs.''
Petersen said, ''It's always nicer to get a little bit of a heads up the night before.''
Nelson noted that most small-school athletic directors are also full-time teachers who can spend only about 45 minutes a day on their athletic director duties. And that accounts for a majority of the athletic directors in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.
''The nice thing was we all plan ahead,'' Salisbury said. ''We all planned ahead on that Monday knowing what was coming.''
I don't like to bring this up to the athletics directors, but what is coming now is the spring sports season which usually has the most postponements.