Do NCAA Spring Sports Start Too Early?

By Hutton Jackson
A&E and Online Editor

This article was originally published in Issue 10, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (March 3, 2016). Click here to view the entire issue. 

The spring is a great time for sports such as baseball, softball and lacrosse. For these athletes playing spring sports, there’s nothing better than playing in warm and sunny weather.

Unfortunately for these athletes, a significant number of games are not played in this ideal spring weather. This is due to games scheduled in months like February and March when the weather is still cold and unpredictable in the Northeast and other regions of the country. Ultimately, playing games in these colder months brings up the question: Why are NCAA spring sports’ games scheduled so early in the year?

The DeSales men's lacrosse team huddling during a practice in the snow. Photo courtesy of the DeSales men's lacrosse twitter.
The DeSales men’s lacrosse team huddling during a practice in the snow. Photo courtesy of the DeSales men’s lacrosse twitter.

Now, the issue is not whether practices start too early, for few athletes or coaches would argue for less practice time before the start of games, but whether regular season games are being scheduled too early.

For schools more toward the South with moderate to warm climates, the issue is not as pertinent. Yet, for schools in the Northern states that experience much colder weather often into the month of March, starting games so early can pose a problem.

In years prior to the installation of DeSales’ two new turf fields, the men’s lacrosse team would rarely hold a practice outdoors prior to their first game due to inclement weather. Often, the team wouldn’t even get outside until after returning from spring break, having already played two to three regular season games.

Even with the addition of the turf fields, the team is subject to poor weather, but players admit the team is in a better position to deal with the weather and can still hold meaningful practices.

“Being on the turf makes the quality of practice so much better than being indoors,” says senior lacrosse defenseman Tim Barry. “While the weather can still have an effect, we’re still able to accomplish what we need to in order to prepare for the season.”

For baseball and softball, however, games are more likely to be canceled or postponed for snow or rain making pristine weather much more necessary. Both teams are also often forced to resort to perfecting individual skills through practice since full field scrimmages are rarely possible early in the season.

Despite this, many spring athletes seem to be content with games starting in late February. Of 18 spring athletes surveyed, over 66.7 percent believed the regular season began at an acceptable time, while only 27.8 percent believed the season started too early.

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The results of The Minstrel’s poll concerning whether student-athletes are dissatisfied with the early start to spring sports seasons.
The results of The Minstrel’s poll concerning whether student-athletes are dissatisfied with the early start to spring sports seasons.

Of those who did believe the season started too early, all students cited inclement weather as the reason the season should start later. Of everyone who completed the survey, even those who believed the season start date should remain the same, 77.8 percent believed that inclement weather did have a major effect on the quality of practice.

The fact of the matter is, games will continue to be scheduled during months plagued by less than ideal weather. Some games will be played while others are postponed or canceled. Yet that’s just the nature of spring sports and it’s up to the coaches and players to adapt.

And they already have. DeSales’ sports teams have already found ways to work around the inclement weather through use of new renovations such as using the turf fields, scheduling games in warmer climates during spring break and ultimately practicing in poor weather in order to prepare for games affected by weather.

In the end, of the athletes surveyed, many responses to whether games are scheduled too early were mixed. Some desired a longer preseason to prepare for games, while others believed that scheduling games earlier in the year allowed for a less congested schedule. But the majority of athletes seemed willing to accept that no matter how they felt, games will continue to be scheduled during the cold months. They recognized that this is simply how their season is, and as athletes they’re willing to play their sport no matter the time of the season.

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