Kaneland softball coach Brian Willis finds himself scouring the internet lately, desperate for ideas to enliven the Knights’ preseason practices.
As is the case for virtually every spring sports team in the area, cabin fever has becoming a daily epidemic for the Knights, who have grown tired of four weeks of exclusively indoor practices because of the cold, damp March throughout northern Illinois.
The Knights were so tired of the same, cramped scenery that they rented space in St. Charles earlier this week to break out of their stale rouine.
With no signs of the cold weather breaking any time soon, the Knights will otherwise have to rely on their own ingenuity to keep things fresh. “Creative [fill-in-your-sport-here] practice drills” is popping up on Google searches throughout Kane County.
“It’s not always the easiest thing to do, especially when you’re dealing with high school girls who are biting at the bit to get outside and get the season started,” Willis said.
The Knights also can’t use regular softballs on the gym floor so “we’re playing with these little softies like we’re in P.E. class,” Willis said.
“The walls seem to be closing in on us every day,” Willis said. “That’s the biggest challenge right now. Trying to simulate reality is almost impossible inside a small gym, and we only have one regulation size gym inside our school as it is.”
Unlike Kaneland, Marmion has a fieldhouse to work with, which alleviates the school’s space crunch to an extent.
Still, it’s hardly been an ideal start to the spring for coach Dave Rakow and the Cadets’ baseball team.
“I think we’re holding up OK so far,” Rakow said. “I think the more distressing thing is when you look at the 10-day forecast, I don’t think there’s any day above 45 in the future, so we’re starting to wonder when we’re actually going to get outside.”
Rakow said the Cadets are keeping practices shorter than usual to compensate for the lack of fresh air and open space.
“Every third day we have three hours we could use but even then we’re not using [the full time] right now,” Rakow said. “We’re playing 90 minutes, maybe two hours, and that’s it. We don’t want to burn the guys out. I mean, there’s only so much you can do when you’re inside. The options are a lot more diverse when you’re outside.”
Not that Rakow hasn’t tried to spice up the Cadets’ practices.
Marmion recently played a wiffle ball scrimmage to lighten the mood and put the Cadets in some actual game scenarios. The Cadets taped the wiffle balls to make them heavier and easier to throw, and even had the scoreboard up-and-running.
As far as the real deal materializing, Rakow is somewhat pessimistic, noting that the school’s infield “looks like a big bowl of soup right now.” Dry, warmer weather is needed for the moisture to evaporate.
Geneva softball coach Greg Dierks said he’s been impressed by his girls’ ability to remain motivated during the indoor practice sessions, and thinks the Vikings have been reasonably productive under the circumstances. The piling-up postponements also is buying time for injured players such as Kelly Gordon (broken hand) and Nicole White (back injury) to heal before the season begins.
That said, Dierks worries that if the Vikings can’t squeeze in at least one of their three scheduled doubleheaders next week during spring break, Geneva might have to open the season the following week, already in conference play.
“That’s a tough assignment, but we know we won’t be the only ones doing it, obviously,” Dierks said.
Everyone’s in the same boat, feeling a little more seasick by the day.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.