COLUMN: No right answers when weather plays havoc with prep schedules

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By John Herndon

Occasionally, there really are no-win situations in sports.

No winners. No losers.

And, there is no overtime to determine the winner or a satisfactory solution. Those involved can only do the best they can with what they've got at their disposal under difficult circumstances.

We aren't talking about drawing up a play for the game-winning shot, but has more impact on how, or more precisely, when the games are played. We are talking about the tough calls schools have to make regarding whether athletic events take place when Mother Nature decides to show us who really is in control.

The questions have come up again recently around the state. At Anderson County, two high-profile basketball games – the Anderson boys' district match-up at Collins and a Top 5 showdown when the Franklin County girls were to play at Anderson – were called off for reasons related to the weather. Immediately, in both instances, there were criticisms that the games were called.

The boys' game, originally set for Jan. 3, was to have been played on a night when neither Anderson County nor Shelby County, where Collins is located, had returned to school from Christmas break. However, there were some icy road conditions that morning, but they were clear by noon.

The girls' game, which had been scheduled for Jan. 7, then Jan. 8, was called off a day before during the bitter cold that gripped the area last week.

(On a side note, that Anderson-Franklin game, which was to pit Anderson, ranked No. 1 in the Rating the State rankings at the time, and No. 3 Franklin, figures to be a doozy if they able to get it in on Feb. 11. In what had been a slow local sports week last week, a short preview of that game serving as our lead sports story last week was really an easy call. With the weather supposed to break on Tuesday afternoon, we felt there was no compelling reason to change that decisioin.

(We got word that the game had been rescheduled about an hour after the deadline to have our sports page at our printing plant. Apparently, some fans saw our story, but did not get word about the change, which we posted on our website as soon as the information came in. I will tell you at the end of this column how you can get up-to-the-minute information from The Anderson News.)

Back to the inclement weather policies.

Suffice it to say that in situations like those two, I am glad I am not the one having to make the ultimate decision. No matter what the final decision, there will be people who strongly disagree. It's really not an easy call.

I contacted Anderson County High School Rick Sallee to see if the local system has a set policy about extra-curricular activities taking place when school is called off because of inclement weather. Some systems have a hard and fast rule of “No school, no play.”

Anderson, however, is much more flexible, allowing for factors that might play out through the day. Sallee said he, the coaches and the district transportation director all have a part in the decision. “For games, it is a combination and communication between the two schools,” Sallee said. “The final decision is really up to the traveling school, or in some circumstances, the parking lot at a host school may be too treacherous.

“We want the traveling school to be comfortable with the decision.”

Sallee, however, is not a fan of the “No school, no play” stance that some systems are implementing.

On the surface, such a policy sounds good. After all, proponents say, if it is too bad to go to school, it is too bad for other activities. Of course, such a stance does not give much credit to people who have devoted their lives to working with kids and their ability to make the right decision.

“But that's what it's coming to,” Shelby County athletic director Sally Zimmerman told me Friday night before the Anderson-Shelby boys' basketball game at Shelby. Zimmerman said Shelby County does not have a written policy that says no activities if there is no school, but for all practical purposes, that is the guideline.

Sallee went on to say that for practices, when there is no school the policy is either no practice or non-mandatory practices, depending on the severity of the weather.

I contacted some other coaches and administrators in other counties, getting some replies. I have shared them in the box accompanying this column.

From this corner, the common sense approach Sallee advocates is the best way. Obviously, if there is a deep snow or ice storm keeping kids out of school, it is a no-brainer that games be called off. The same should be the case if weather forces schools to dismiss early.

But on playing games when there is no school, I firmly believe a balanced approach taken by people who truly care about kids is the smart way to go.

Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society and that, perhaps more than anything else, will prompt more schools to adopt well-meaning, but over-reactive, hard policies.

And that's a shame.

Need quick updates?

Did you miss the announcement that Anderson County basketball games had been rescheduled? Occasionally, announcements of that nature are made after our print deadlines.

However, I update on Twitter at ANewsJPHerndon, on The Anderson News Facebook page and online at www.theandersonnews.com as soon as possible after information is received. Those are great ways to enhance your experience in following Anderson County sports.


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Policies in some nearby counties

“We do not have a no school, no play policy. Our administration at South will consult with the other schools in deciding if it is safe to play. We are allowed to practice on snow days if approved by the athletic director.”

-Steve Simpson, boys' basketball coach, South Oldham High School


“We don't have a formal policy for this particular issue. We evaluate the safety of these situations on a case-by-case basis. The 'rule of thumb' is that we don't usually participate in them on days school has been canceled.”

-Ryan Allan, spokesman for Shelby County Board of Education