Athletes 'finding ways' to get better during shutdowns
Jamestown High School athletes talk about how winter weather affects their seasons.
Jamestown High School winter sport athletes know that when icy roads and snowdrifts cancel practices and postpone games, improving their game is up to them.
They have just got to find a way.
"I am kind of disappointed (when school is canceled) because no school means we can’t have practice," JHS senior hockey captain Hunter Nelson said. "It pushes back our games (but) I just try to keep telling myself to stay focused so we can reach the end of goal of the WDA and state championship games."
"You got to get the right mix between rest and practice and gotta push fluids and try to stay healthy."
On Jan. 14, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Jamestown area, which resulted in a slew of game postponements and practice cancellations.
The state was hit with another more severe winter storm warning on Dec. 26-28. Severe wind and 18 inches of snow closed much of Interstate 94 until the afternoon of Dec. 27, when westbound lanes from Jamestown to Bismarck, eastbound lanes from Bismarck to Fargo and westbound lanes from Fargo to Jamestown were opened.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning the morning of Dec. 28 for Stutsman, Dickey, Foster, Kidder, LaMoure, Logan and McIntosh counties.
"I roll with the punches and adapt to the new schedule and understand that it is out of my control," JHS junior hockey standout Alexis Kirkeby said. "Last year our season was delayed because of COVID and the state tournament was rearranged as well, so that definitely has forced us to be more flexible."
All of the interviewed athletes said since most athletes have experienced the COVID-19 shutdowns, regulation changes and schedule adaptations, they are now more used to shifting practices and independently bettering their level of play.
"Last year's schedule was chaotic so having a normal schedule this year, even with all the changes, feels normal," junior wrestler Colton Mewes said. "You just have to stay focused and ready when it’s always changing."
Kirkeby and the JHS girls hockey team most recently saw a schedule change on Friday as their non-conference tilt against Crookston (Minn.). The game, originally scheduled for Jan. 4, got postponed to Jan. 14, but the threat of snow canceled the Jays' trip to Minnesota for the second straight year.
Jamestown was unable to play any out-of-state teams last season due to COVID-19 protocols.
"Athletes who don’t live in the Upper Midwest will never understand the fear of getting home at midnight from a road trip and wondering if their car is going to start or if they can even get out of the parking lot without getting stuck," said Katie Trumbauer, a JHS senior.
Trumbauer and the JHS girls basketball team were also recent targets of a postponement.
Originally set to face off against Minot on Dec. 28, the squad got told the game would be rescheduled to Jan. 13.
While the rescheduled tilt was able to be played, the Jays had a snow day on Jan. 14, which canceled the team's only practice before they were set to host Watford City on Jan. 15.
"It’s tough when practice is canceled right before a game because we aren’t able to prepare as well as a team for our next opponent," Trumbauer said.
"When a game gets postponed it can put added stress on future weeks depending on when the game is rescheduled."
When the district calls off school, all practices and other after-school programming are canceled and no coaches are allowed to hold structured practices or be in the building, leaving it up to the athletes to find ways to improve their game independently.
Trumbauer said she and most of her teammates like going to Jamestown's Two Rivers Activity Center (TRAC) to practice drills and keep the shooting hands loose while also connecting as a team.
Adam Kallenbach, a senior for the Jays' boys basketball squad, said if snow or weather prevents you from getting anywhere at all, athletes must still be vigilant in improving their game.
"You have to be unique and find a way to improve at home whether it be dribbling in the garage or watching film," Kallenbach said. "Basketball is a sport where you don’t need other people to improve so if you can continue to find a way to get to a gym and work on stuff that makes you a better player that also helps the team."
JHS head wrestling coach Larry Eslick said shoveling snow would also be an acceptable workout for his batch of wrestlers as staying active is a must when dealing with the delicate weight balance required in wrestling.
"Sometimes rest is welcome, (but) I encourage my wrestlers to watch film or get some type of workout in," Eslick said. "We won’t change a practice plan but wrestlers will need to watch their weight a little closer with a day off and no practice. We will probably ramp up the intensity when they come back to catch up.
"Wrestlers are naturally-disciplined athletes so they understand they need to find a way (to stay active)."
Eslick saw a postponement of the Jays' scheduled conference dual against Bismarck Century on Friday, giving the team a six-day break prior to their match against Bismarck St. Mary's on Thursday.
"I mean it really sucks when it does happen cause you’ve been training all week for that competition and all you can do is just refocus and get ready for the next week," Mewes said. "On snow days, I just do a little workout to get moving and to stay in shape nothing insanely hard because you need rest to recover from that past week."
Mewes is not the only one who is let down when the weather wipes out the Jays' plan of attack.
"My first feeling is one of disappointment," Eslick said. "We are all competitors and I want my team competing. This late in the season it is always hard to find an open date to reschedule events."
Eslick said when cancellations happen, the Jays' schedule gets chaotic because he puts it together a year in advance without even considering anything will get canceled.
"It is a challenge to find an open date when basketball needs gym space also," Eslick said. "Conference duals are necessary to have to determine conference standings.
"There is a lot of work to find a date that works for both sides and other winter sports."
The winter-sport coaching challenges don't stop at rearranging the schedule.
Eslick said winter coaches also have to account for longer travel times due to weather and road conditions. Also, coaches must be proactive in making sure that all athletes have proper winter gear with them on road trips because the buses break down more often in the winter months.
While coaches are trying to avoid transportation breakdowns, Haley Nelson says she tries to use un-scheduled breaks to avoid mental breakdowns heading into the postseason.
"Having a day off could help you prepare for the next competition mentally," Haley, the lone senior for the JHS gymnastics team, said. "I try to remember that having a few days off can benefit you and give your body a rest but it doesn’t mean you can just get lazy."
The gymnastics crew didn't miss any contests last week but is slated to be at Mandan on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Haley said if there’s a snow day, her team, like many of the other JHS squads, tries to stay active in some way whether it’s setting up an unofficial practice or doing a workout at home.
"Practice is definitely a huge part of contributing to our performance in competition," Haley said. "When school gets canceled, I feel frustrated because you prepare yourself to compete all week and then don’t get the chance to.
"I try to stay focused and remember that not everything goes as planned and you have to be ready for whatever gets thrown at you."
While inclement weather affects all team's schedules, cancellations and postponements perhaps have more negative impacts on Jamestown's gymnasts.
Unlike other winter sports, the WDA regional tournament does not determine if a gymnast or gymnastics team goes to the state competition, rather it is the regular-season rankings that determine a potential trip to the state contest.
"Having a meet canceled can be a big deal," Haley said. "One less meet means one less opportunity to get my teammates and me up in the rankings."
Haley is not the only one in the Nelson household
working to come out on top of the state's competition this winter.
"You just got to find something you can do around the house, maybe do a quick workout or something to keep you active," Nelson said of improving his game. "Mentally, you can watch hockey, or if you can find the videos of our games just watch those and see what you need to improve on."
Kirkeby said that when the district calls a snow day, the JHS girls hockey captains try to get ice time and invite the whole team to join them. Since coaches aren't allowed to come, the team just runs their own drills.
"I take advantage of the rare day off," Kirkeby said. "I’m able to stay at the top of my game with some downtime once in a while. It doesn’t happen very often."
Kallenbach said any break he can get helps as the season starts to get long and tiring toward the end. He works to get good sleep, eat well and take care of his body and mental game any way he can.
Kirkeby and the girls' hockey squad are slated to be on the road at Fargo Davies on Tuesday and then will host Bismarck on Saturday for North Dakota Hockey Day.
Kallenbach and the hoops crew will be at Bismarck St. Mary's on Tuesday and then will be off until Jan. 28.
"Weather may change our schedule but doesn’t change our focus," Eslick said. "We find a way - whatever it takes."