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Sunday News (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)

Ryan Landis fondly remembers the good old days, when snow meant he just might get to stay home from school, and the excitement that possibility often created.

Naw, we're not talking about when he was a kid with a backpack full of books.

This would be just over a month ago, before Christmas. More specifically, before Landis stopped teaching Hempfield fourth-graders and took on the position of Athletic Director in the Warwick School District.

"You almost can't understand completely unless you're in the middle of it,'' said Landis, one of several new Lancaster-Lebanon League ADs who have spent the last month or so in Snowstorm Mode.

Four times in January, snow or winter weather has forced numerous L-L League events onto the shelf. The Jan. 21 storm and subsequent (dangerously cold) temperatures produced back-to-back days of rescheduling, which has been the greatest challenge thus far.

It's been a dramatic change, particularly after two straight relatively tame winters. And particularly for those ADs who are learning on the job.

"I would say baptism by fire would be a good way to put it,'' said Pequea Valley's Dan Myers, a former head trainer at Reading who began his new job in September.

"When we have a snow day, it's hours of work before you can even think of going out to shovel or anything like that,'' said Cocalico's Whitney Seltzer, in her first year as successor to retired Audrey Stoner. "We definitely have to plan ahead and be very organized.''

While planning the weather is something that happens only in dreams, there are ways to prepare that will at least facilitate the job after a storm.

Seltzer said that even last week's back-to-back postponements - although Cocalico missed only one school day - went smoother for her than the season's first storm, simply because of the learning process.

Here's a general outline of what athletic directors and their assistants must do:

1. Find a new date. L-L League rules specify that varsity league competitions must be reset on the first available date. That's not as simple as it might sound.

For instance, the host school may already have another event on the first available date for the visitors. Or in the case of swimming, with most schools competing at off-campus facilities, that site must also be available.

Sometimes, nonleague games must be moved off their original dates, or "off-season'' sports previously scheduled for gym time must step aside. Then there are junior high games which may need to be rescheduled to make room for the varsity ... and the process begins anew.

Another key consideration is a team's existing schedule. Will the postponement result in a basketball team playing three games in a week, or a wrestling team competing on back-to-back nights?

"The ultimate thing,'' said Manheim Township's John Loose, "is the kids' best interest in mind. You've got to remember they are student-athletes.''

2. Reschedule officials. Schools generally start by contacting the officials originally scheduled for the contest to determine whether they're available for the new date. If not, then they get help from the assignor of officials in that sport.

"Typically they are (available),'' Myers said. "There are times when we have to get another official coming from another venue. I know we've started junior high games with one official because we had one who couldn't quite be there when we wanted to start. There are conflicts that come up. ... For the most part, that doesn't happen.''

3. Transportation or facilities. If your team's traveling, you have to make sure the bus will be ready. If you're the host, then it's about contacting all your game day personnel - trainers, security and other assistants.

Fortunately for all the league's new ADs, they receive support and tips from their more experienced colleagues whenever it's needed.

"All the veterans constantly remind us, 'Don't be afraid to call and ask for advice,' " said Ephrata's Steve Sweigart, who replaced Tommy Long in November 2012.

"It's definitely like a close-knit family already, I feel,'' Seltzer said.

Among that advice:

"Just to have a checklist, because there's so many people to call,'' Myers said. "And if you're expecting weather, to bring your checklist home with you, so you make sure everybody is contacted.''

For Landis, the buzzword is "flexibility'' - but in his mind, it goes beyond that.

"The other advice I've been given that's been true," he said, "is that you almost - not just because of the weather, but weather is definitely a factor - you almost have to enjoy unpredictability. If you're someone that likes to control things and you like things in a certain routine, it might drive you crazy.''

So let's see ... it's a combination of being highly organized and comfortable amid a certain level of chaos. Sound like the job for you?

 

February 3, 2014
 
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