Stepping Up: Weather presenting consistent challenges

Published 3:00 pm Thursday, October 20, 2016

In every sport, a given team is going to have a myriad of problems to solve in a game. A lot of those take place right in front of spectators: performing well on the offensive end of a game, playing strong defense to keep the other team out of the game, staying disciplined so as to avoid fouls or penalties, and so much more.

There’s a lot to overcome both mentally and physically, too, and much of that takes place where only coaches and players can see it. Injuries happen every so often, whether they’re small or more long-term issues.

Washington’s athletics know all about that. Senior football star Sharwan Staton readies himself for his debut Friday at Beddingfield. Meghan Moore, a senior leader on the Lady Pack volleyball team, missed the beginning of the season due to injury, too.

Of course, the Pam Pack isn’t the only team that’s had to work through bumps and bruises this season. Southside football’s backfield has been banged up for much of its campaign. All-star Northside running back James Barrow has been hurt in a couple of games, too.

A lot of success in any sport has to do with how a team overcomes these internal mental and physical tests. Weather has arguably challenged Beaufort County teams more than anything else this fall.

It’s a problem that usually plagues winter sports more than anything else. It’s almost expected for snow to impact late-season basketball plans come February. But in the fall? Even when Hurricane Irene hit in 2011, all it washed away was non-conference games. Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc during every sport’s conference stretch. Unlike non-league gams, those have to be made up.

Moreover, things like injuries can oftentimes affect one team more than others. That’s not the case with all the problems the weather has caused. It’s hit just about every team in every sport.

Compared to most other sports, there’s a sort of rhythm in football. The raw physicality of a 48-minute game on the gridiron can be taxing on an athlete’s body. Not getting a complete week to recuperate from game to game can be detrimental to one’s ability to physically perform.

Local football teams haven’t had the luxury of that rhythm of playing every Friday night. They’ve played games on every day of the week but Wednesday and Sunday. In fact, some have played more non-Friday games.

Northside has played five of its eight games this season on a Friday, but hasn’t been in its normal spot since its Sept. 30 homecoming game against North Pitt. Southside is split down the middle: four Friday games and four non-Friday games. Washington’s three Friday games is the least in the county.

These complexities to the schedule add a different wrinkle to not just football, but any sport. Whether it’s games being crammed into a short span, or long layoffs between contests, there are plenty of intangibles that become more important to success.

Among them is an individual’s drive. Many teams held optional practices during the post-hurricane mayhem last week. Whether it was attending those voluntary sessions, or simply doing some personal work to maintain conditioning, an individual’s own will to win came to the forefront.

It worked for some. Southside’s soccer team had nine days between games when it got back to action last Friday against Northside. The Seahawks have outscored their two opponents 15-1 since that break. Coach Jay Petty said he asked his team to do some individual drills and work on cardio to make sure they were prepared to get back on the field.

Leadership is another important intangible. A team’s vocal leaders are instrumental to getting players mentally prepared, whether they’ve grown lax with too much time off, or they’re fatigued due to a compressed schedule.

The Pam Pack’s senior-laden soccer team was able to come back from 11 days off and win its most important game of the season on Monday. Before they even scored against North Johnston, the likes of Rob Zerniak and Ben McKeithan surely contributed to that success.

The scenario is almost never going to be ideal going into any kind of game. It’s the best teams that face these challenges head on and overcome them.