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Murch: Alternative high school winter sports for outside

December 7, 2012
Steve Murch - Managing Editor , The Alpena News

Sports Editor James Andersen and sports writer Eric Benac were discussing on Friday the number of sports during the various high school seasons. Unlike the spring and fall that have many, the winter only has five - boys basketball (men's at ACC), girls basketball (women's at ACC), wrestling, bowling and hockey. Only one school has hockey and only two have bowling.

All five sports take place indoors, though hockey does have ice, which is an outdoor condition brought inside. So to take sports to the elements, let's try these activities and make them competitive sports. The nice part is they don't have to be gender specific and could include both boys and girls, though you could have a boys team and girls team.

Ice fishing: This could be a good invitational-type competition similar to cross country and track on weekends. Teams have 14 members - seven scoring units - who work in pairs. All the teams line up at the starting line and race off to drill their holes, drop their lines and fish for two hours. There is a catch limit and the team with the heaviest total catch wins. Or, it could be treated like a cross country meet where the scoring is by each pairing so where you finish is more important that the team's total weight, and only the top five for each team count toward the score.

It could be a spectator sport, though only for the adventurous on really cold days. Imagine the chants: "Catch that fish! Catch that fish! Catch that fish!" Then the "players" turn around to "Shush" the fans. Cheering, and the obligatory oohs and aahs would be heard as each fish is weighed.

Snowball fights: The rules would be simple like paintball - once you're hit you're out. Teams of 11 would be on a field of play with various obstacles to hide behind. The object is to grab your opponents flag and successfully return it to plant it in your safe zone. A player carrying the flag who gets hit must drop the flag where they are hit without telling their teammates where the flag is. This would compound the adventure as one team tries to get its flag back to the safe zone and the other tries to capture it.

Imagine the strategies between going on a full offensive, or being more defensive minded and protecting your own flag first. Would we hail the offensive genius or the uncompromising defensive strategist?

Which is more desired as a skill, the ability to throw snowballs accurately at a great distance or maneuverability in the snow and agility to avoid incoming snowballs?

This is a more fan-friendly competition, as spectators would be able to sit in bleachers and observe the match. It's likely, however, that the first several rows would remain empty so as to stay out of the line of fire from a stray snowball. Because some matches might not last long, it could be best of three.

Winter driving: Now this one has practical purposes too. Think equestrian on wheels - and ice. A course is set up where the driver has to make his or her way around in the shortest amount of time and accumulating the fewest penalty points. Imagine one section where the driver has to drive a slalom through scattered grocery carts; another offers a chance for the driver to gain some speed but has to make a left-hand turn where just around the turn is a row of garbage cans; another stretch is straight, but slippery and a pedestrian is just off the curb and there is a slush puddle - don't drench the pedestrian or suffer the most penalties possible. All the while they are driving on some snowy patches, some icy patches and some dry pavement.

And think of the practical purposes. We would have young drivers learning to be better at driving in winter conditions.

I can hear the downstate teams complaining already about the advantage northern teams have since they have to deal with these conditions more frequently. It's not unlike the advantage baseball and softball teams from downstate have with their seasons starting sooner because of lingering winter up north. Heck, if it catches on at the college level some kids might try to get into northern schools to see if they can land college scholarships.

Let the interviews begin for the new coaches.



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