By Brandon Speck
Parents won’t let kindergartners go to school in January without layering up. But Mississippi sends teens to soccer’s playoff pitch when temperatures plunge into the teens.
Five first-round playoff matches scheduled for Tuesday night were postponed because of the cold.
“I don’t understand why we play soccer in the winter, to be honest with you,” New Albany coach Caryl Vogel said. “I understand because of conflicts with baseball and football, but the cold weather has an impact on the ball … it also has an impact on feet. You have to wear a couple of socks just to keep your feet from pretty much going numb, or freezing off.
“I think we’re one of two states that play it this time of year, us and Louisiana.”
New Albany moved its Class 4A game against Pontotoc to tonight at 5 p.m., when temperatures will still be barely above freezing.
Why not move to a sunnier season?
Soccer isn’t one of Mississippi’s big three and Vogel knows the difficulty smaller schools could have sharing football, baseball and soccer players.
But players now choose between soccer and basketball.
MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said he believes coaches would work together; the dilemma in moving soccer to the fall is the availability of facilities.
That seems less an issue in the spring.
“There’s been talk before about soccer being played in the fall, but it has not been brought forward,” Hinton said. “Other than lack of facilities, I don’t know a reason it couldn’t be moved.”
New Albany is equipped for the fall, as the town has a sportsplex. More schools are building fields, instead of playing on football fields already loaded with high school and middle school games. But even Tupelo, with a soccer sportsplex in town, plays on the football field.
Tupelo got its 6A games in Monday night, but moved Tuesday’s practice indoors.
“It’s different, because there’s only a certain amount of things you can work on inside,” Wave coach Harris Faucette said.
Faucette says dealing with the cold is mental.
But cold also slows the pace and hardens the ball.
As far as moving the season?
“I don’t control it. It is what it is right now,” Faucette said.
Many more sub-freezing wind chills and the MHSAA could see that request.
“They’re not able to play to the best of their abilities with this kind of cold weather,” Vogel said. “I wish there was another way to do it. I don’t know what the right way would be.”