Field closures, and practice and game cancellations are a fact of life in spring in Western Pennsylvania. We try to squeeze an 8-game soccer season in between winter and the end of the school year. It’s typically not pretty at the beginning and even more so this year. It is not muddy kids, car interiors, or colds that we are concerned with, but rather how playable fields are after activity on a field that is too soft. The ground hardens and becomes a rough surface making twisted ankles and knees an unfortunate consequence of our own impatience. After closing our fields, only to have them messed up by other local groups that are not concerned about who else plays on them, we’ve come to the following guidelines for coaches to use in determining whether to have a practice on any given night they are scheduled to when the fields are “iffy” :
- You’ve seen the muddy fields you are supposed to play on. If there is safe space to the side that you can use, you may want to still practice but avoid soft areas and especially the goal area, since it usually has less grass and torn up more easily.
- Many fields were recently aerated, so if you think there was a lot of mud before, there may be much more now.
- In weeks where there are no regularly scheduled games, and no school some days, you have no rush and potentially poor attendance anyway.
- Cold weather means lingering water, demotivated kids, and frustrated parents, so consider what quality the practice will have for the team’s esprit de corps.
- Of all these reasons NOT to practice, our presence in dry areas may scare away other groups still using our fields when we’ve decided not to. If our efforts to not use the fields at all mean that other groups may go on them anyway, then I’d rather have us using the spots that we will knowingly be careful with, if it keeps others from abusing them.
We play on these same fields for the rest of the season and deal with the players’ parents as well. Coaches should find what works for their team and gingerly make their own call.