Rick Sanchez leans back in his chair inside his Moline High School office and glances out the window toward the parking lot. All the Moline girls' soccer coach sees is snow covering the ground, an indication the weather has won this match.|
Almost two weeks into preseason, the Maroons have yet to practice outside because of the snow.
"This is a first for me," Sanchez said. "It's difficult."
Three winter storms that pelted the Quad-Cities in consecutive weeks have impacted the soccer season in ways some long-time coaches have never seen before. With inches of snow still on the ground, no local team has left the indoors for practice.
The season is scheduled to open today.
"It's difficult being able to accomplish certain things you want to accomplish," said Sanchez, who is entering his 17th season at Moline. "We have to adjust pretty much everyday in regards to which facility is available to us. We felt we had a pretty good group coming back, but there's only so much you can do on a gym floor with 25 girls in there at one time.
"It minimizes what you can do."
Less than a week before the season opener at Normal Community, Sanchez is hopeful the Maroons can reach the practice field today.
United Township has yet to practice outside before its season opener at Machesney Park Harlem on Tuesday evening. With the conditions making it impossible to practice on a field, UT coach Phil Weaver conceded that the season opener could be pushed back.
"We're at least two weeks behind," Weaver said. "We're way short of where we want to be right now."
Out of the six Illinois Quad-Cities girls' soccer programs, Geneseo and Rock Island are the only teams not opening play this week. Many wonder why so many teams are playing when the weather has been suspect at best, but the Illinois High School Association calendar had spring practices open early this season.
Practice for spring sports started on Feb. 25.
"It's a bad scenario," Weaver said. "I've always been one to question the start of spring sports. We seem to be starting preseason earlier and earlier. ... From my standpoint, we'd be better off waiting to start in mid-March, similar to what Iowa schools do."
All teams can do is accept the reality they have been presented.
"It's not the best situation, but we're making do," Alleman coach Randy Bollman said. "We're getting plenty out of what we're doing."
Even with a positive attitude, negativity persists. Each team lost a practice last week because a third winter storm canceled school. Some had another practice canceled the previous week because of the weather.
On days that there is practice, having it inside a gymnasium restricts what teams can do. Some said they have spent more time on conditioning than tactics the last two weeks.
"In regards to working with the ball and technical stuff, it puts a damper on it," Sanchez said. "You try to keep the girls motivated on doing things inside and make some challenges. We don't know if we're going to get a scrimmage or two before the first game. It puts you behind."
That appears to be the story of the preseason.
Mother Nature certainly won this match.
"We haven't even had a kid put a pair of cleats on," Weaver said. "At the moment, we don't know if that is going to be this week or the week after. We're at the mercy of the weather."