Column: The joys of spring sports

Published 3:16 pm Monday, April 4, 2022

From time to time, I am asked what is my favorite sport to cover or my favorite time of year to cover sports.

For many years the answer was I enjoy covering all sports. That was the truth, but as the years have rolled by, an answer that is a bit more truthful has developed. That answer is I love covering every sports season and every sport until we are about three-quarters of the way through that season.

It does not matter if the six schools I have the great fortune to cover are having strong seasons or they are struggling. By the time we hit the three-quarter pole, I am ready to move on to the next season. The winter sports season might be closer to the midway point as I hate being cooped up in a gym.

Each season has its ups and downs. Each season begins with great expectation for all of our teams at Brandywine, Buchanan, Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg and Niles. Sometimes those expectations become a reality and sometimes things do not go as planned.

There are special moments throughout the sports calendar that make all the days and nights of watching games that quite honestly are not that fun. I never enjoy seeing our teams end up on the wrong side of the blowout. Watching our teams pound an opponent is not really that much fun either because finding something to write about in both instances can be quite the challenge.

I try to look for the silver lining when our teams come up short. I try to keep my stories on the positive side because over the years I have learned that no matter the outcome of the game or the record of the team, the girls and boys I cover give their best efforts 90-plus percent of the time. A lack of effort is usually not the case when it comes to winning and losing.

In breaking down the sports seasons, each one has its own appeal to me. Fall is special because after the heat of the summer months, I am looking forward to a crispness in the air and the leaves changing colors. It is a busy time with six different sports, but it is also a time when I get to be outside covering football, tennis, golf, cross country and soccer, but also go indoors to cover volleyball. Covering soccer does become one of my favorite sports when the calendar changes to October, and I know I will not get rained on or have to cover a game in the snow.

Winter sports has the fewest teams, but it is a growing season as bowling seems to be catching on. We now have three teams competing in the winter with the addition of Edwardsburg this year. Competitive cheer is another growing sport that is both fascinating to watch and personally terrifying for me to cover having seen a cheerleader fall during a stunt back when it was still just sideline cheer. I wince every time they fly, but seeing what they are doing now is amazing.

I would say winter is perhaps the most intense season out of the three. For decades, our boys and girls basketball teams, as well as our wrestling teams, have been making long tournament runs. It is not just one or two schools either. All of our schools at some point during my 30-plus years have had basketball or wrestling teams reach at least the regional or quarterfinals, and several that advanced to the semifinals before being eliminated.

I hope someday I will be able to watch one of our teams hoist up that state championship trophy in wrestling or basketball because I retire. At the very least, I would love to see one of them compete on the final day of their seasons.

Of the three seasons, spring has a narrow lead in which one I like the best, but it is also the most frustrating. After three months in the gym, I cannot wait to get outside, get some fresh air, and see green grass. Unfortunately, thanks to the weather, waiting is exactly what I do a lot of in the spring.

I get up each morning and start looking through emails and Twitter to see what games might be canceled, postponed, or given the green light. Sometimes it is the temperature that affects where a game is played, and sometimes it is the amount of snow that fell overnight. Even the amount of rain that falls could force a game to be postponed or canceled because the ground is too soft to play on. Forget the fact that it is 70 degrees outside and sunny.

It is all worth it when you can climb out of the car and settle into a spot at the field to cover the game. The cold temperatures of March and April eventually give way to the warmth of May and then the heat of June as our teams complete another school year.

So far, Mother Nature has won the battle this spring. But I am already seeing temperatures nearing 70 in the 10-day forecast and some sun icons instead of the rain ones we have been dealing for the first couple of weeks.

Hopefully, the wet weather will clear out this week, and we can get out to the diamonds, the tracks, the courts and pitches to watch our teams do battle. Spring has sprung, and it is time to get to work.

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com.