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Winter sports arrived too early

The high school winter sports season officially started this weekend.

If that seems a little early ... well, it is.

High school football state playoffs are still going on. Boys and girls soccer playoffs, along with volleyball, just ended. There needs to be a break in between.

Why? Because even in this era of sports specialization — where a number of kids concentrate on the same sport year round — there are still plenty of student athletes who compete in different sports across the academic calendar.

This isn’t just limited to smaller schools.

Butler graduated four starters from last year’s boys basketball team and those kids have moved on to college athletics in four different sports. Devin Carney is playing basketball at Duquesne, Colin Patterson baseball at Indiana (Pa.), Charlie Kreinbucher football at Bucknell and Raine Gratzmiller is running cross country at Washington & Jefferson.

Multiple-sport athletes like them need a break while competing in high school. Being in shape for football is not the same thing as being in shape for basketball or wrestling. There needs to be time for transition.

If a school is particularly strong in fall sports and their teams last deep into the playoffs, the winter sports teams at those schools get punished. They will be getting parts of their roster reporting late and those kids still have to adapt to the new sport once they get there.

This problem can be fixed. One way would be to trim the number of playoff eligibles, thus shortening the postseason. That’s probably not going to happen.

Another way is to start the high school fall season during the third week of August. Golf and tennis generally do so. Why can’t the other sports follow suit? All of fall sports should be finished by Thanksgiving.

Move the beginning of the winter sports season back to mid-December. A two-week window between the end of fall sports and the beginning of winter would be ideal. Winter sports playoffs can run deeper into March— spring sports have no business starting in March anyway.

Spring sports should begin in the second week of April. Tighten up the baseball and softball schedules. Those teams can play more than twice a week. Nobody is going to get worn out.

The spring playoffs last into June as it is. Tacking on another week wouldn’t harm anything. Once school lets out, the kids can concentrate on going after a state title, if they’re fortunate enough to still be playing.

The bulk of spring sports would be played in nicer weather, too.

All of these adjustments are relatively minor ones.

But winter sports starting now? Too soon.

John Enrietto is sports editor of the Butler Eagle

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