“I can recall times when we did not have snow. But temps like this? No,” Damhuis said. “This is totally unheard of.
“I was telling (assistant coaches) Dave (VanderKooi) and Jared (Kram) that I cannot ever recall a time with weather like this.”
Spring sports teams across Michigan opened practices on March 12 — and since that time, the weather has been unseasonably warm. The average high temperature in the Tri-Cities for the month of March is 42. The mercury has reached nearly twice that number several times in the past week.
That has made Damhuis’ job of evaluating his players much, much easier.
“The ball has a much truer bounce to it, and you can really evaluate the girls more, see what they would do and how they would react to the ball — as opposed to being inside on the basketball court,” Damhuis said. “It’s much nicer for us, and it’s a truer reflection of what the player can do.
“It’s pretty amazing, the second, third day of tryouts and we have to make sure we hydrate the girls because they’re losing fluids too fast. That’s totally unheard of at this time of year.”
Damhuis remembers having to shovel snow off the field in time for last year’s season-opener. So does Lakers’ coach Jeremy Thelen, whose team opened its season with a scoreless tie at Coopersville this past Wednesday.
“(Spring Lake Athletic Director Cavin) Mohrhardt said it was 50 degrees warmer than last year for our first game,” said Thelen, whose team enjoyed temperatures in the 80s on Wednesday. “We actually scheduled the game with Coopersville early thinking that, if the weather’s bad, we could still play on their turf. Then, of course, it’s almost 100 degrees on their turf.”
Thelen said his team’s practice field at Spring Lake High School is a bit spongy this spring, but that’s much better than trying to hold tryouts indoors.
“It’s really nice to be outside this time of year,” Thelen said. “If you’re in the gym, you don’t get a true soccer bounce. You don’t have a chance to space yourself, to see what the field is like size-wise. You get outside, you can space yourself out.
“Our practice field is still pretty damp, but at least we’re outside. We can move around to different areas of the field.”
Spring Lake varsity softball coach Bill Core said that being able to practice outside has its own set of blessings and challenges.
“The first thing is, when we’re indoors, because we share the gym with so many teams, our practice slot for varsity softball is 8-10 at night,” Core said. “So practicing 3-5 (in the afternoon) outside is way better.
“The second thing is, you’ve got your indoor routines” he continued. “You work on so many fundamental things — from bunt defense, leadoffs, signs, bunting in the cage, your first and third plays. What’s happened is, you get outside and you get so excited, you just want to go-go-go, inter-squad scrimmage, and you forget to do all that other stuff.
“I’ve had to slow myself down and make sure we do all those little things that we typically do inside.”
Core said he hasn’t had to deal with these types of issues often in his 23 years as the Lakers’ varsity softball coach.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
Grand Haven varsity girls lacrosse coach Kim Vincent also said the weather has eased her team’s late practice time slot.
“The warm weather has been a tremendous benefit to our team,” she said. “Our team practices late in the evening because of the congestion from other teams around the school — and with those late practices, you’re usually dealing with the cold, rain and darkness. In this weather, the girls don’t mind staying late and getting some extra work in.
“We’ve got 34 girls out, which has given us enough to form two good, solid teams,” Vincent continued. “I’ve been surprised with some of the new girls who’ve come out. They’re very athletic and have picked up the game very quickly. Again, being outside has helped that.”