Soccer is a fall sport and basketball is played in the winter. But when do sports like tennis and golf play their seasons? The answer is both fall and spring.
The men’s and women’s golf and tennis teams at Indiana Wesleyan University have split seasons: playing half of the season in the fall and half in spring.
Unpredictable Indiana weather is the main reason for the split season, according to Men’s Golf Head Coach Austin Conroy. There simply isn’t enough good weather in either individual season to play a full schedule.
Conroy said a split season is necessary at the collegiate level.
“If we just did a spring season, then you know, that’s what high school sports do,” Conroy said. “We’re a college program.”
Conroy said there are lots of events in the fall that help improve the team’s NAIA national ranking in the spring, when they play their league season and the NAIA national tournament is held.
Women’s tennis Head Coach Eddy Shigley said he “loves” the fall season.
“The weather’s awesome and [players] get to play all summer and they come ready,” Shigley said. “They come prepared, they come tennis-ready.”
The Crossroads League is the only NAIA conference to play its tennis conference schedule in the fall. Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams won the league championship, earning an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament next May in Mobile, Ala.
Men’s tennis player Kyle Johnson (sr) said it’s tough to have such a long wait between qualifying and playing in NAIA Nationals.
“You have to wait six months before [you] can play which is kind of unfortunate when you’re coming off such a high,” Johnson said.
Coach Conroy also said it’s hard to maintain the momentum from the fall into the spring season, about a four-month layoff. He sees the fall and spring as two different seasons.
Johnson said team chemistry is also a disadvantage to the split-season format.
“We try to keep in contact with each other and camaraderie going but at the same time we aren’t with each other as much,” Johnson said.
Both Coach Conroy and Coach Shigley said their teams stay together through offseason workouts, study tables and devotional times.
“I think it’s really important for us to have shared spiritual experiences that aren’t just in season,” Shigley said.
Another problem with the split-season format is practice times during the winter months. The tennis teams are able to practice in the Troyer Fieldhouse, but spring teams like baseball, softball and track and field have priority. The golf teams are not so lucky, as they cannot practice in the fieldhouse.
The tennis teams finished up their fall seasons at the Crossroads League championship on October 4. The golf teams wrapped up their fall seasons this week at the NCCAA National Championship tournament in Panama City Beach, Fla. Spring seasons begin in the middle of March.