Wet fields bog down practice schedules for area sports teams March 30 2015

Even on a sun-splashed evening like Thursday's, a problem that has hampered youth lacrosse teams all over the Baltimore area crept up yet again.

That day's early rain left soggy fields closed to hundreds of teams, the latest setback in a month when bad weather has cut short seemingly every sport and organization's preseason preparations.

"It is as bad as it would seem with the weather," Bill Thrush, coach of the Towsontowne Recreation Council's junior girls lacrosse team, said before his practice Thursday at Meadowood Regional Park in Brooklandville. The girls practiced Thursday because they were on the artificial turf, but they aren't always that lucky.

"It seems like it's always raining or snowing, or if not, it rained or snowed the day before and they cancel practice," he said.

Thrush's problem is a common one among area lacrosse coaches, who, despite the tireless scheduling and rescheduling of program coordinators, can't do much during the sloppy March conditions that have become standard in the area.

"We've had three practices, and games are underway this weekend," Thrush said. "You gather your team, you barely learn the girls' names, and boom, you're in games."

Thrush's team shared the Meadowood field with an under-12 midget team, and on most nights would have had a third team with them as well. Before the girls began their warmups, the coaches huddled to decide how best to use the field they knew they were lucky to have. Around them, Meadowood's grass fields were empty, as were so many other sloppy tracts across Baltimore County.

Mike Brunner was supposed to have his team outside for the first time at nearby Seminary Park in Lutherville, but the Lutherville-Timonium Rec Council teams couldn't get outside, either.

His problems aren't unique.

Linda Moscato Gessner, commissioner of Towson's Kelly Post Girls Lacrosse, has use of Towson's limited field space from March 1 on. That would allow for multiple practices per team ahead of the season, but because of the weather, they haven't been on the field more than once or twice.

"What's tough for Kelly Post, in particular, we had a tournament last weekend with one or two practices under our belt, and in Towson we don't have access to indoor space," she said. "The other teams like Catonsville, Howard County, they have more access to indoor space.

"Even though they are in the same situation where they can't go on the field … they've been able to have more practices and get a jump on the season ahead of us."

With over 30 teams and limited field space, weather cancellations aren't always made up that week.

"It's a constant rescheduling of fields and teams, like an open-ended conversation between me and my coaches to try and get them on the field when and where we can," Gessner said. "It's kind of complicated."

In Howard County, the abundance of turf fields available to the Howard County Lacrosse Program means travel teams begin on the synthetic fields earlier, but even those have their drawbacks.

"We had the boys program this past weekend, and even though they're artificial turf fields, the county policy is those fields can't be used when it's snow-covered," said Charlie Fleck, executive vice president for boys lacrosse at HCLP. "Last Saturday, all the games that were scheduled had to be canceled."

Other practices and preseason games have been canceled as well, and that's just on the turf. The school system in Howard County doesn't release its grass fields to community use until at least April 1. Even that depends on the conditions.

"If they deem that they are still too soggy, which at this point looks to me like a pretty good possibility, they could be canceled," too, Fleck said.

The burden of these scheduling problems falls on program coordinators and coaches, but Thrush said his players are resilient, practicing in cold weather when fields are available because "they just want to come out and play."

"I think they get a little frustrated when they can't get out," he said. "When lacrosse season starts, everyone gets a little giddy and wants to get out and throw. It's a little frustrating that they can't have a little more time."