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Stubborn snow keeps spring sports on sidelines

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The winter that refuses to end could soon start delaying the start of spring sports.

Instead of rugby games at Sisler and soccer games at Garden City, late April could see empty fields awaiting the drainage of piles of melted snow.

Rugby Manitoba executive director Brad Hirst said the high school season, which normally gets going in April, has already been delayed until May 4 — and that’s the best-case scenario.

"If it were up to me, I’d say let’s play in the snow," Hirst said late last week. "But right now we’re up in the air as to when this is all going to clear up so we can get on the field. If we keep getting down to —10 C at night, it’s not going to help."

The main venue for high school play is the Maple Grove Rugby Park in St. Vital, which Hirst said won’t be ready until early May at the earliest.

And unlike community centre sports, which have more flexibility with their scheduling, a high school league has no choice but to wrap up its season before the end of classes. That means if the season gets delayed much beyond the middle of May, tough decisions will need to be made.

"We are looking at alternatives so we don’t have to cancel the season," Hirst said. "Our main concern is that we want to make sure the kids are out there playing rugby. The introductory point for all these kids to learn the game is at the high school level."

Possible alternatives include a very short schedule, a round-robin tournament, a weekend tournament or a skill-development camp, Hirst said.

Adult rugby leagues don’t start playing until late May, so they shouldn’t be affected by the late spring, Hirst added.

Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association executive director Carlo Bruneau was also hoping Mother Nature would give his organization a helping hand. While nothing was set in stone last week, Bruneau said time was running out for the WYSA to start on time.

"We more than likely won’t be playing on natural grass pitches until sometime in May," he said, noting that as many games as possible would be scheduled on the artificial surfaces at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex on Waverley Street.

If the season is delayed, Bruneau said the goal will still be for teams to play the usual number of games, either by adding some matches at the end of the schedule or by inserting them in the middle.

Tryouts for competitive clubs are done indoors in February, so outdoor fields won’t be needed for that purpose, but Bruneau said recreational teams will be in tough to get ready for the season if the snow doesn’t melt soon.

"One of the problems is teams won’t have a lot of time to prepare," he said. "That’s not ideal. The whole system is going to be a little pressured."

Whenever the season does kick off, the WYSA is expecting to have more teams registered than last year, Bruneau said, adding that registration for the popular Children’s Hospital Tournament is now open at www.winnipegyouthsoccer.com

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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