Matt Straube had to send some of his Durant boys basketball players home from school early to get the correct uniform for Monday’s game.
Entering the day, Durant wasn’t sure who its opponent was going to be. In fact, the Wildcats weren’t sure where they would play or if they were going to at all.
Welcome to the life of high school athletic directors, coaches and players across the state during what has been a two-week string of cancellations due to excessive snow and frigid temperatures.
“It’s been a nightmare as an AD,” Straube, the Durant Athletic Director and boys basketball coach said. “It’s chaos. As an athletic director and teacher it’s kind of a nightmare because I’ll be teaching, taking phone calls and sending emails.”
Durant was originally scheduled to play host to Midland in a doubleheader but that was called off when Midland canceled school Monday. Straube spent the remainder of the day working the phones with Tipton and Wilton to try to find a game while also taking questions from his players wondering what the plan was.
Eventually, Durant agreed to hit the road and play at Wilton on a day where it planned to play a home game against a different opponent.
The Wildcats have played two games in the last 15 days, which is more than a lot of other schools can say. Neither Muscatine nor West Liberty’s boys and girls teams have played a game in the last 12 days. The Comets’ last game was January 15 and the Muskies’ was January 17, which a far cry from the “one to two episodes” of severe weather per season the Muskies are accustomed to.
“We obviously aren’t going to be able to prepare the way we’re used to,” Muscatine girls basketball coach Susan Orvis said. “For us as coaches we’re trying to see what the next probable game is, really zero in on that and find the pieces on the next couple of scouting reports and see where the overlap is.
“Then we focus the limited time we have on the main things.”
Muscatine athletic director Mike Morgan said the number of phone calls he gets each day is “pretty close to double” in the last 12 days.
Still, Muscatine has been one of the few programs able to hold optional practices most days during this stretch, although even the Muskies have been shut down this week due to the cold weather. Instead of asking players to drive to practice on country roads, Durant has only practiced once in the last 10 days. Even the wrestling teams who are in the early stages of the postseason have found mat time tough to come by.
After winning the River Valley Conference Title over the weekend, West Liberty’s Will Esmoil referenced overcoming not being able to do any conditioning as a team the previous week. Wapello has only practiced twice since January 21, though wrestling coach Rocky Hamilton said some of his wrestlers have been able to get workouts in elsewhere.
The group most impacted, however, is the non-varsity athletes. Freshman and sophomore games are being lost as athletic directors scramble to reschedule. Wilton’s junior high boys basketball team has yet to play a game this season. Durant and Muscatine have each gotten a pair of games in.
“They typically don’t make stuff up,” Morgan said of the non-varsity sports. “If you cancel you cancel. The varsity games are important because they’re the last games but if you’re talking about learning and kids needing to play while they’re growing the lower levels need that more than the varsity.”
“But they’re the ones who tend to lose games.”
So, after all of the uncertainty of the last 10 days, what happens next when the forecast improves?
The answer: A ton of basketball. The Muscatine girls play six games in the first eight days of February and begin postseason play February 13. Morgan said the girls schedule is out of flexibility, too, and if any of those games were to be canceled they won’t be made up. The boys play eight games in two weeks and begin postseason play February 18.
“We just have to figure out how to manage minutes and bodies,” Orvis said. “I hope we don’t run into injuries but we have to think a little broader than just game planning as we see games back up.”