Over the course of a high school sports season, coaches preach about how their teams face and overcome adversity in its many forms: a losing spell, an injury to a key player, a difficult schedule.
But in the first week of practice for the spring season, many teams in the area encountered another intractable problem — snow.
In true New England fashion, a late-winter snowstorm dumped up to half a foot on some towns on the South Shore early last week. It created a logistical nightmare for many boys’ lacrosse coaches, who had to find time and space to play while also trying to get a handle on their teams during the never-long-enough tryout period.
“Tell me what a bomb that was,” said Mansfield coach Tim Frias of the midweek interruption. “You have to go with the adversity like it’s in a game. You can’t control certain situations, just like I tell the young men.”
Many schools, Mansfield included, were closed Tuesday, and the snow didn’t simply disappear after that.
In Braintree, the Archbishop Williams squad practiced in the mostly empty student parking lot Wednesday and Thursday, a set-up junior Nick Menzel said included “a lot of boundaries.”
So the Bishops took the situation into their own hands.
In an effort spearheaded by Menzel and a few other upperclassmen, nearly three dozen athletes showed up at school Friday with shovels.
They shoveled the artificial turf field for about an hour and a half after school, then practiced into the evening for two-and-a-half hours. By 9 a.m. Saturday, they were at Scituate High for a preseason jamboree to play three other teams.
“You’re pretty limited when you’re practicing on pavement, and we decided it wasn’t going to be enough. We decided we needed to be on the field,” Manzel said. “It was awesome how well the program came together like that to accomplish a goal.”
Senior Max McClay said the extra time out in the cold was well worth it.
“Practicing [inside] was kind of brutal,” McClay said. “We were trying to do one-on-ones and it was getting cramped. It really put a damper on what we can do, so clearing the field really helped out.”
It’s a similar story elsewhere, including Xaverian in Westwood, where 65 athletes crowded into a gym for two afternoons before a group of players shoveled off the mostly melted snow Friday. Senior Tom Dion said the team alternated between practicing in a gym — which was hard to do, thanks to the odd bounces the ball took on the different surface — and doing conditioning and lifting drills.
Scituate had just two full practices on its turf field in the first week of the season, spending the other days on the tennis courts or in gyms.
“The skills aren’t where they need to be, ground balls need work, and it’s hard to recognize situations,” said coach Mark Puzzangara . “If you’re outside all week, these are things that are put into place pretty quickly.”
All of those schools, though, had it easy with their artificial turf. But Hingham? Not so much.
Because the Harbormen have a grass field, they had to travel to Cohasset Sports Complex. Having 93 athletes trying out for the program’s three teams while practicing on a field smaller than normal was far from ideal, according to coach John Todd .
“You can’t cut kids loose on tar or in tight spaces or they’ll kill each other,” he said, adding that the school’s grass field is “not suitable for New England weather.”
“You can’t fire them up and get them going at full speed. It turns into a WWF street fight and they get cut up.”
If there is a silver lining in last week’s conundrum, it’s that most, if not all, teams were dealing with the same situation — they were on a level playing field.
That, and the fact that warmer forecasts this week could be a sign spring is here, a sign more concrete than just the sports that are now in season.
Archbishop Williams coach Bob Joyce was confident his team will be ready when it opens up the regular season Thursday at Braintree.
“It doesn’t affect the players,” Joyce said. “Whether it’s 10 degrees out or 100 degrees out, they’re ready to go.”