Montclair High School spring athletes overcome weather to practice
PHOTO BY ANDREW GARDA
With just three weeks until most spring sports begin their season, the timing of last week’s massive dumping of snow couldn’t have been worse. Maybe an opening-day dumping would have made for a more negative impact, but at least then the teams involved would have had time to get some practice and scrimmaging done.
That couldn’t happen last week with most of Montclair still digging itself out. While Montclair Kimberley Academy was on spring break, Montclair High School’s athletic teams found themselves having to adapt.
“It’s been a challenge,” varsity lacrosse coach John Scanlan said on Saturday as his team went through drills in the MHS main gym.
“We did 4 on 3’s, 4 on 4’s. I don’t think we ever got to 5 on 5’s,” Scanlan said. While it’s good to break down plays to their bare-bones, fundamental foundations, it’s hard to get a sense of what your team can do when you don’t have everyone on the field.
Scanlan and his staff were able to take advantage of the situation though, breaking down into specific offensive and defensive drills. Offensive coordinator Doug Nettingham and defensive coordinator Drew Jenkins both had the chance to give very specific notes to individuals, which is sometimes hard to do when you’re on a full field and the action is nonstop.
In the gym, the practice flow is far more erratic. While that’s not always ideal, it worked on Saturday, as each coach had time to focus on specific plays and formations.
Whereas lacrosse is a game that can be broken down effectively to take indoors, softball and baseball aren’t. Head softball coach Valerie Tauriello has had her squad at indoor batting cages and in the high school gym, but a ground ball on a wooden floor moves differently than it does on turf or grass and a batting cage can cost money.
The team can use a setup in the upper deck of the high school gym, but it’s not the same as being outdoors.
Tauriello has gone so far as to drive south, looking at places where there was less snow. She says she has reached out to Long Beach and Monmouth in the hopes they would be interested in a scrimmage.
“We have four open days,” Tauriello said, ”and we are hoping to reschedule some of the scrimmages we had to cancel.”
Tauriello says the team is lucky that though the season starts on April 1, their first game isn’t until Monday, April 3. While they cannot scrimmage once the season starts, they will get an extra full practice while other teams are playing.
They still need to find a way to get some scrimmages in, though.
For both Scanlan and Tauriello, getting their team on the field is critical to helping them know how each player fits on the field. Lacrosse had its first scrimmage at home on Tuesday, but even that came with challenges as it shortened the softball team’s first outdoor practice, since much of Fortunato Field is still covered in snow.
Which is another huge hurdle teams have had to deal with. There’s only so much gym space to work with, and multiple teams in need of it. On top of that, you have indoor sports like volleyball, which have to get priority.
All that leads to things like a shortened softball practice Tuesday afternoon, whittled down to 45 minutes so lacrosse could finally have a scrimmage.
It also leads to getting creative in both practice drills and team building. Last Saturday, for example, the softball team joined members of the MHS football team at an Adidas event in Manhattan. Tauriello says the girls had a great time and grew closer as a result.
For Scanlan, Saturday’s wrinkle involved bringing back an old school drill known as “The Driveway,” which involved running up a driveway behind the gym, then doing push-ups. After that it starts all over again.
Creative? Definitely. Odd? Maybe. But if your field is covered in snow, you have to use what you have.