Defending the athletic directors

By Roger Grossman
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — It happens every winter.

It snows, and it gets cold.

Some embrace the cold and snow. They go out and play in it on snowmobiles and frozen lakes.

Others dread it and move into places where they don’t have to worry about shoveling or going anywhere.

Either way, winter weather is inevitable here, and it causes disruptions in our local sporting events.

Recent weather brought up a debate that is worth spending my time to join in on and clear up for you.

When should sporting events be cancelled and when should they carry on when considering the weather?

If you were born before a certain year, you remember a time when there was no decision to be made — if you didn’t have school, you didn’t play any games or practice after school.
It was automatic. No discussion was needed.

And that made it easy for everyone to understand what was happening, right? There was no internet or texting or group emails or Zoom chats, because we didn’t need them … well, not for the purpose of sharing information in real time like this anyway.

But there came a day in which schools simply rubber stamping these kinds of decisions became impractical.

Let me tell you about such a day.

It was a Tuesday, and the Warsaw girls basketball team had a conference game at Goshen that night.

It had snowed the day before as a warm front was moving through Northern Indiana. The superintendent woke up to a thick layer of fog and called for a two-hour delay, which transitioned into Warsaw being closed for the day later in the morning.

It was totally the right call. Driving in that soup was not safe.

By 10:30 a.m., you know what happened? What almost always happens—the fog burned off and it was a beautiful, sunny day.

It certainly was nice enough that any school bus from any school could transport a team from “Point A” to “Point B” that evening.

But, in this case, that wasn’t possible. The game had already been cancelled and there was no turning back from it.

From the next school year on (sorry, I don’t remember what year that was), those decisions started to be delayed to get a better feel for what the weather would be like when the teams, officials and fans would be traveling.

It’s practical thinking.

As the “local sports guy,” many of you have come to me in angst with the thought that games can be played (like happened in some places over the last few weeks) even when school is not in session … and I get what you are saying. “If it’s too dangerous to have school that day, it’s too dangerous for a game that night” is the common refrain.

But my response is “what if it’s not too dangerous that night? What if the issue with snow or fog or whatever is going on in the morning is resolved by, say, 1 p.m.?”

Every school can make its own decision, and if one school says it’s not safe for them to travel or for their people to come to their gym, then they don’t play.

But if both schools agree to play, then why shouldn’t they play?

The point I am trying to make with this is that the “go/no go” decision is not made without serious forethought and consultation.

In most school districts, the superintendents and transportation directors need to approve that events carry on as scheduled. Sometimes the high school principal also gets a say. My sense is that the athletic directors talk with those people first before they even talk to the opposing school. A veto vote from any one of them would trump anyone else’s thoughts.

Because sports are “extracurricular,” there is an underlying negative opinion that athletics are callous and uncaring when it comes to these decisions and the attitude of “the show must go on” wins out over everything else unless they absolutely can’t. That somehow, they are willing to sacrifice the lives and conditions of the students-athletes at their schools just to avoid the inconvenience of having to reschedule an event.


Yes, it is difficult to reschedule sporting events — there’s transportation and referees and game workers to coordinate for the new date and time, and it’s a pain.

But not that much of a pain.

So, yes, when the daytime temperature is 5-degrees above zero and the wind chill is 20-below, there can still be a basketball game that night.

Why? Because there’s a huge difference between a 5-year old standing for 20 minutes at the bus stop in sub-zero weather and a 15-year-old riding in a bus 30 minutes to a basketball game.