Soccer season beset by rainy autumn, causing game cancellations, rematches Less daylight, cold weather limit youths' field time

November 17, 1997|By Brenda Buote and Neal Thompson | Brenda Buote and Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

For Eileen Russell, 10, missing the past three weeks of soccer games and practice because of rainy weather wasn't such a bad thing. She got caught up on other things.

"I watched TV. I read. I did homework. I argued with my baby sitter. I beat up my brother," said Russell, shivering in yesterday's twilight after her team's first game since last month.

But thousands of other young soccer players across the region haven't been as accepting as Russell to losing the last third of their season.

Lousy weather over the past few weekends has forced the cancellation of hundreds of games -- and dampened many young spirits.

Teams in Baltimore and surrounding counties are hustling to make up lost games, but are now racing the clock against colder weather and shorter days.

"What's really hindering us is daylight-saving time. The kids can't play after school because it's dark outside," said Ron Mox, sports supervisor for Anne Arundel County, which has a backlog of more than 400 games that have to be made up or not played at all.

"The fields are drenched and soaked," he said. "This is the worst soccer season I've seen in 27 years."

That's because it's been one of the wettest autumns in years. It has rained 10 days over the past three weeks, including the first two weekends of this month.

Mox said that with 6,000 kids between ages 9 and 16 in the county's leagues, it's no easy decision to cancel a game. But, he said, "safety is our first and main concern."

"Playing in the mud is fun for the kids, but we look at it from a safety perspective. The kids could twist an ankle or break a leg playing in poor conditions," he said.

With 1,000 teams and nearly 15,000 youngsters in Bowie, Frederick, Laurel and Prince George's County, the private Montgomery Soccer Inc. may have been hurt most by the recent rains.

About 500 games are played each Saturday, and more than 1,000 have been canceled because of the weather. "Everybody is so depressed and frustrated," said Sylvia McPherson, executive director of the private organization, which is one of the country's biggest soccer programs. "The children spend so many hours working toward a goal, and then they can't finish because of the weather."

Yesterday afternoon, Eileen Russell and her bundled-up teammates jumped up and down on the sidelines, hugging themselves and each other, while parents' cheers turned to steam in the chilly air. But at least it was better than their Saturday practice, when half the team showed up "because it was really muddy and really cold and we all felt sick," said Anne Newman, 10.

Coach Eric Greenbeck said most of the players seemed glad to get back on the field after three weeks off. And the other good news: they beat St. Joe's, 2-1.

"But now it's too cold to play,'' said Katie Battista, 10, afterwardrunning toward her parents' car, as the sun set behind nearby St. Mary's Seminary off Northern Parkway.

Pub Date: 11/17/97

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