Tony's Take: April Weather Is Unbearable In The Midwest

Brutal conditions like this one could not stop the Palatine Relays in 2019


We have talked about inclement weather interfering with our beloved sport of track and field. Let's talk about it again.

Some things never change. It is Spring according to the calendar but it has yet to feel anything other than the middle of February...

While we are still waiting for the sweet smell of Mother Nature after a thunderstorm we may have to wait several more weeks or so. I so desperately desire the scent of rain mist that permeates the air followed by the birds chirping, and later bees and other creatures getting into their lanes.

Spring also reminds me of a time way back when I was a kid in high school. I can recall coming off of an already long cross country season followed by indoor track during my junior year that started in early January and ended in March.

My great high school coach Pete Jones was also my club coach who often stressed how essential indoor track and field was to become a great outdoor athlete. Like many Midwestern states, the weather is bad in Indiana from late December to early March. That means there are very limited opportunities to practice outside in the natural elements. The school hallways became prime destinations for our track teams as well as baseball and other spring sports.

I can recall that once our last indoor meet was in the books, we were outside practicing on a daily basis, regardless of weather conditions. There was one meet that stood out in my mind in late March. Or was it the first weekend in April? Anyway, it was that home meet vs. Bloomington North (Indiana) and I had to run the 3200m for the first time in my career. I was not thrilled about running eight laps in what felt like sub-zero weather. The 10:11 that I ran was not great but I braved the snow, wind, severe cold, and admiration of my teammates. My coaches simply said 'good job' and kept it moving. 

I don't remember a single meet that was ever canceled because of cold weather it was junior high school or senior high school. Maybe it was because we did not have smart weather reports at our fingertips. It seemed like too much trouble to get on the phone and call the news station and issue the order to cancel. The newspaper was the other mass communication source. But what I really think it was the sign of the times. 'Being tough' has a negative connotation today because it insinuates kids who are bullied into giving maximum effort. In other words, it is said that self-esteem is compromised. 

In order to sufficiently and successfully compete in cold weather races, it's important to practice in the elements

School policy today comes from the top down with it rarely being questioned. If the athletic director says 'we are going to cancel your event', many coaches will not challenge the decision. The thought process oftentimes is that the policy may come from the board of education which is said to protect the safety of the athlete.

But does it?

There are other times when coaches are indoctrinated into making a hair-trigger decision that may seem for the betterment of the team. However, in many instances, it is for selfish reasons. No one likes the cold, windy, or rainy conditions of April more than coaches. It's even worse when the team they have is an un-enjoyable one. Cancellations are often times a way to remove themselves from the pain.

It would be hypocritical not to include myself in this fray. In the past, my school has canceled a meet because of what a pre-conceived weather report would bring. It was said to have packed extreme high winds and a wind chill that would effectively hinder performances and possibly damage timing equipment. However, the day turned out to be one of the best days of the year. It was a lesson learned as the next competition occurred a few days later in typical "bad" climes and we went on full speed ahead. The kids performed well and there were minimal complaints or issues.

Sometimes I think we need to get back to less dependence on technology and more emphasis on common sense. Perhaps taking a cue from the athletes that we train day in and day out to be tough is probably where we need to go moving forward.