Field Conditions in the NEK

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Field Conditions ThumbnailAROUND THE NEK- Snow in April: it's a ski and snowboarders paradise. But for spring sports athletes, it's a nightmare come true.

"Spring in the Northeast, especially all the way up here in the Kingdom, is a challenge for everybody," said St. Johnsbury Academy Athletic Director David McGinn. "The spring season is certainly a very unique one."

 

"No one likes being in the gym, but we're just trying to do what we can to get better," added Lyndon Institute baseball player Brandon Brunell.

Spring sports practice sessions can begin as early as March 12th. On March 12th of this year, the area was bracing for a foot of snow. With snow on the practice fields, teams accept the challenge and make do.

"Inside, ground balls are a lot harder, whereas if we were out on the grass, we'd be able to pick up ground balls a lot easier," noted St. J lacrosse player Devin Foley. "We'd be able to have that field mindset, where we're able to understand the field and really just play in a lacrosse setting. Whereas we're stuck in the field house, we are not able to do things like that."

Even for coaches, inside practices can be a struggle.

"You can only do so much in the gym, and this is an even smaller space because we have two permanent cages that get set up, so it really truncates our space," said LI baseball coach Jeremy Wheeler.

"Definitely the depth perception, trying to get our throws down, working on the accuracy, the drills, keeping everyone engaged, excited, wanting to come in and keep up," added St. J JV softball coach Lauren Smith.

A key part of indoor practices is sports psychology-that is, keeping athletes engaged and involved.

"We do a lot of music, let them kind of get in that way. Change up the activities a little bit, keep them going, do a lot of competitions, games, make it fun, give them something to be excited about." added Smith.

"We just think of the positives. We're going to get better bats from doing this, our pitchers are going to get in better shape for doing this," noted Brunell. "We're just trying to look at all of the stuff that we get better at from being inside and not thinking about the stuff we're missing not being outside."

Both St. Johnsbury Academy and Lyndon Institute have considered installing artificial turf, which can be plowed off and made playable much quicker than natural grass. But artificial turf comes with one key drawback.

"Certainly turfed fields have been in the discussion here at the Academy," said McGinn. "But it's a major financial undertaking."

"Generally, it comes down to cost, and being able to afford putting something like that in," added LI Athletic Director Paul Wheeler. "Certainly something we would look at if funds were available.

Turf, grass, or field house, teams still need to get their games in before the season ends. With more than a dozen games remaining, it's now crunch time for these student athletes.