Alternatives to Regular High School Sports
No school, no play! That is the rule from state educators and the WVSSAC. With the state map dictating who can have school and who can’t, it also controls the state sports scene. Right across the River on the Ohio side, schools have been open a few days per week, allowing basketball season to happen. The River Pilot boys and girls teams have been busy with practice and regular season games. There have been a few cancellations, but for the most part games have gone on as scheduled.
The River boys team is young and they start four underclassmen, including two freshmen. But, that hasn’t kept them down as they have been in most games with freshman center Ty Long leading the way with a double figure average in scoring while also hauling in nearly 10 rebounds a game. The girls team has gotten out to a good start with a few wins early on.
Governor Jim Justice and the WVSSAC have set January 11 as the opening day for winter sports in West Virginia, but it all depends on the map. If you’re in the Red or Orange color there will be no school, and that will set the start of your season back even further. Without high school sports, winter can get a little boring for local sports enthusiasts, so like everything else we look for other ventures to fill the gap.
There are plenty of alternative things to do if you are interested in outdoor activity. One of my favorite choices is ice fishing on Lake Erie. There is no ice fishing yet, but over the coming weeks cold weather will no doubt freeze the inland lakes. Lake Erie so far is open water. The ice needs to be at least four inches thick to support anglers and their gear. I prefer to have seven to eight inches of ice if I plan on venturing out a mile or two. My grandpa used to say no ice is totally safe so take every precaution and use test drills before setting up. Pap used to use a hand drill and tap everytime we went out. Today we just use a cordless drill with a 12 in bit, and what took 1/2 hour 40 years ago is now a 4-5 minute chore. Once ice forms on Lake Erie, steelhead, yellow perch, northern pike, and a mix of other species will be pursued by ice fishers.
For Walleye the open water season is coming to a close, with smaller shallow streams and harbors beginning to form significant ice, though the main lake remains open. Anglers have been trolling deep adding snap weights up to 2 oz. 40 feet back to get down to the fish. Many have also reported success jigging lipless crankbaits and spoons tipped with shiners.
The fishing effort for yellow perch has been low, but some are still targeting and catching fish near harbor mouths in the Cleveland area. Perch spreaders with shiners fishing near the bottom produce the most fish.
Steelhead Trout are hitting well from shore, near the break walls, and from piers. The best baits are small spoons and crankbaits for anglers fishing from trolling boats, and jigs tipped with maggots or small spoons when fishing from shore. Sometime in mid-January to early February, I will spend a weekend either on the ice or close to shore. We will cap off each day with a large fish fry, homemade coleslaw, deep fried onions, and boiled potatoes. Live music will end each night.
For those who can’t get away for two to three days, locally you can try sled riding at Oglebay Park, or ice skating at several locations. Local fishermen are having good luck at the Hydro Dam, and several lakes within driving distance are fully stocked. Again if ice fishing test the depth before heading out.
With fishing, sled riding and skating just a few suggestions to fill the void of lost high school sports, my desire for area athletes is for your schools to be open, your sports teams to be on regular schedules, and for every one to finish out your high school career without interruption. As far back as I can remember High School sports has been the rallying point for every school, community, and many families. Sports create memories that last a lifetime, athletes make friends they never forget, they forever remember their teammates and coaches. Whether they win or lose, the times spent representing your school often set the stage for your success later in life.
Too many kids have already lost what they worked their whole childhood for. Their seasons were wiped out, their hard work, dedication, and chances to become champions have dissipated. Competing against athletes from other schools in sports and academics is a learning experience which carries over to life after high school. Good luck to all in the coming New Year and may God shed his grace on each and every one.