LTCC hoop classes unfairly cutting into STHS spring sports practice time |

LTCC hoop classes unfairly cutting into STHS spring sports practice time

Column by Steve Yingling

“Basketball and volleyball are what the school excels in athletically, so it’s in your best interests to accommodate and cooperate with them in their off-season endeavors.”

That seems to be the message South Tahoe High officials are delivering to baseball, softball and track and field programs with a recent memo informing coaches that they must reduce gym practices from two hours to 1 hour and 40 minutes for the remainder of the season.

A 100-minute practice. That’s how much time you spend at a movie or taking a nap. With a combined 2-26 record, the STHS baseball and softball teams need more time to work on fundamentals – not less.

Understandably, coaches need at least two hours and as much as three hours to adequately prepare their teams for competition. Anything less and someone may get hurt or games losses could become humiliating.

Do you think Carson baseball coach Ron McNutt has ever put his squad through a 100-minute workout?

As you might expect, STHS officials aren’t reducing the teams’ practice schedules without a reason. The three teams schedule their practices consecutively in the school’s two gyms when snowfall precludes practices outdoors.

Now, however, STHS must accommodate Lake Tahoe Community College basketball and volleyball classes – otherwise known as informal off-season practices for the top Viking teams – into the congested equation.

Track and field uses the gyms from 2-3:40 p.m., then softball takes over from 3:40-5:20 p.m. and baseball wraps up the triple play from 5:20-7 p.m. That leaves the gym for the “LTCC classes” from 7 p.m. on.

“I feel badly for the teams, too. It’s just a function of living up here and trying to play spring sports,” said STHS Athletic Director Frank Kovac.

“We’re committed to having our facilities available for Lake Tahoe Community College men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball classes. The college tells us what time their classes are offered and we’re bound to the schedule.

“We were hoping against hope that we’d have good weather by now, and the teams would come back from spring break and be able to practice on their fields.”

Obviously, some of the Viking spring coaches aren’t happy with the preferential treatment the off-season sports are receiving.

“I’m really frustrated some days. Every time I turn around there is a roadblock,” said STHS softball coach Jan Johnson. “I’m all for off-season stuff, but I have a hard time envisioning basketball leaving early during their season so we can get in there in the off-season.”

In many cases, Johnson doesn’t believe two hours are adequate preparation time, considering the setup and tear-down time essential to turn the gym into a softball facility.

“If we get 1 hour and 20 minutes of practice time, we’ll be lucky,” Johnson said.

Most unsettling about the controversy is that the basketball classes are conducted from 7-9 p.m., while volleyball has graciously accepted a 8-10 p.m. time slot. If the basketball classes were offered from 8-10 p.m., the spring coaches probably wouldn’t be upset. Viking boys basketball coach Tom Orlich oversees the men’s class, while STHS girls basketball coach Tim Jaureguito directs the women’s class.

First-year Viking baseball coach Doug Russell, however, doesn’t have a problem with reducing practices at this point in his season.

“One hour and 40 minutes is enough time to get done with the fundamentals that we are working on at this point. It’s not necessary to explain new techniques or new schemes. It’s more of reinforcing things we already know,” Russell said.

“On the flip side, if the kids decided they wanted to work extra time to work on some defensive drills or if I decided we needed to work on some added fundamentals or some new defensive schemes, I would like to have the time we were allotted when the season began. At this moment, it’s not a backbreaker for us.”

There is no reason why the LTCC class couldn’t meet in one of the other area school gymnasiums or wait until the spring sports have returned to their fields or their seasons end to begin using STHS’s precious gym space.

What all this really comes down to is softball, baseball and track and field have always been the least respected programs at the school and basketball has always been king. If the basketball program had three feet of snow covering the court a week before practice opened in November, all it would take is one phone call and an army of snowblowers would sweep the court clean days before the first shrill of a whistle. That’s fine, but why can’t the other sports receive similar treatment?

STHS needs to send the message to spring student athletes that it really does care. Otherwise, they’re going lose more than they win.

“We’re victims of the Tahoe spring, but if we can stick it out, the long-term interests of baseball and spring sports, in general, are going to benefit,” Russell said. “Too many hours are being put in by the student athletes, parents and coaches for them to be ignored or getting the short end of the stick throughout the community.”

If the stick gets any shorter, the Vikings should forget about putting bats or batons in their hands.

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