At Concord Academy, as at many private schools, spring sports begin in winter, at a time when fields are unplayable, tracks are unrunnable, and it’s still so cold outside that frozen fingers can’t grip the baseballs, softballs, javelins, and frisbees that yearn to be flung with verdant ardor. This year “Spring” track began last week, with fifty kids and three dazed adult coaches crammed into a small indoor space trying to do something useful that might lead someday to running faster, jumping higher, or throwing further.
It didn’t take me long to get into trouble.
On that first day, after introductions and a couple of activities to help the coaches learn names, our team (minus the distance runners, who were sent out into the cold with instructions to be back before dark) took over the atrium on the main floor of our athletic building for dynamic warm-ups and some simple drills. While well-intentioned, this creative use of available space completely paralyzed all other foot traffic in the area, earning me a rebuke from my athletic director. Eventually we moved to the wrestling room for some core strength work.
And so it went for the rest of the week. Using whatever space was available, we did lots of conditioning, but little event-specific training. We skipped, lunged, and lifted. We pushed against walls. We held planks, squatted with kettle balls, worked on hip mobility, and did endless core. And all the while, I wondered how long it would take for warmer temperatures to melt the three feet of snow that sits on the track.
Waiting for the track to be free of snow and ice feels like a familiar rite of spring. In years with a lot of snowfall or a late winter storm, the track can be annoyingly encumbered, even as temperatures soar. At the old Newton North, we used to head out with shovels to try to clear the first lane of snow. I tried the same thing once in Concord, but we were intercepted on our way out to the track by a zealous employee of the Concord Rec Department, who forbade us from clearing snow from the track. In vain, I argued that the plastic shovels we were using wouldn’t harm the surface — certainly not as much as metal spikes — but no luck.
The point is that early season track practices require creativity, and that usually results in someone yelling at me. I dream of having an indoor facility available to me, without having to use corridors, stairs, basketball and squash courts, and other random spaces for training. But that’s not likely to happen any time soon.
And thinking ahead from training to competing, one has to wonder when outdoor facilities will actually be ready to host meets. With warm weather in the forecast this week, there should be plenty of melting, but will it be enough to melt so much snow by early April and the first scheduled meets? Even if tracks are clear, throwing areas are likely to be a mess. The prospect of postponed meets adds additional uncertainty to the season.
I’m trying to see the silver lining in all of this snow-related angst. Maybe being forced to focus on “conditioning” will be a good thing, giving our young and inexperienced athletes a better base for when they start doing things that resemble actual running. Maybe we’ll be able to focus more on technique. Maybe we’ll have fewer injuries when we finally get around to competing.
One way or the other, it will be an interesting experiment, this early spring track without a track.