Spring weather plays havoc with sports schedules and yesterday was no different.
The scrimmage between Northern Lehigh and Lehighton was in jeopardy of being canceled due to the Spring snow Monday rendering both fields un-playable.
As the Athletic Directors wrangled with the problem, Northern Lehigh head coach Brian Schell made a phone call in the morning to trusted supporters Dave Lear, Brian Filchner, and Brad Lorah. All they did was re-arrange their daily schedule to get the field at the Walnutport playground playable for the afternoon scrimmage that went off without a hitch.
The two teams scrimmaged on a field that was as good as any during the season. Schell, who has a 168-103 record in 13 seasons, had found a way to get his team the work necessary to defend their Colonial League title.
"If you ask me how we (won the Colonial League Championship), that is it," Schell said. "When the community does that, It makes you work harder as a coach. You don't want to let them down."
In his fourth year of his second stint, the program has grown into a life of its own. To explain how this happened, Schell quotes the title Hillary Clinton's book It Takes a Village.
"It really is like that," Schell said. "It takes a lot of people working together for you to have success. It just doesn't happen by mistake and you as a coach don't do it alone."
The list of people Schell gives credit to is far too long for this story, but he points out the key parts of the Northern Lehigh softball village.
"Our 'softball village' starts with the knowledgeable and dedicated coaching staff," Schell said.
By his side is loyal sidekick Bob Hicks who was on Schell's bench for the '88 state title team. He also has Pitching coach Nikki Chirico, her father Gary Warmkessel and on the JV level there are siblings Missy and Jon Defrain do a great job preparing the girls for the next level.
Schell is proud to point out that the Northern Lehigh program has missed the District tournament just once since the last 26 years. Schell pastes credit to the feeder program that teaches the girls in the area the love of softball at a very young age and nurtures their talent into the high school level.
The feeder system, including the JV's, the youth program, as well as the summer and fall programs get the girls ready to compete with a lot of success.
Dean Wagaman, father of last year' star pitcher Julie, played a big part in those feeder programs and is now passing it on to parents Lear and Filchner. In an era where parents can be meddlesome and a problem, all Schell gets from these parents and the parents of other is consistent cooperation.
"I don't know why I have been so fortunate to have parents like this, but they have been so supportive to the organization," Schell said of the parents organization. "They'll do what it takes to be supportive of these girls.
The 'village' also consists of undying support from the administration and faculty as well. He mentions Superintendent Michael W. Michaels, Athletic Director Bryan Geist, the head of grounds Greg Derr, the head of the grounds crew Mark Hoffman and 'the boys' under him who go out of their way to take care of the team.
"I've been fortunate to have administrative and faculty support at the school," Schell said. "They work with us in supporting the girls and have an interest in how they are doing and wishing them well."
There is even support from the school district bussing and it is not for the rides they get. During the winter months, the team is afforded the opportunity to use the heated bus garage after school to field live grounders and drills for just over an hour until the buses return from their afternoon runs.
Schell also credits the fact that he has talented girls who work hard at their sport. After winning the championship he was unsure of how motivated the girls would be for this season. Would success spoil them?
It would not be the case for this group. It has been the best turnout of for the off-season workouts that Schell had seen. In fact, the team exceeded their coaches expectations by expanded his three day-a-week lifting, throwing, and hitting program to included two additional days of running as a team.
"It shows me they are not taking this championship for granted." Schell said.
So how did he do it?
"It wasn't Brian Schell. It was all of these parts working together, and when that happens it is a beautiful thing. I couldn't have asked for a better ending."
Sounds more like a beginning than an ending.