Lake Country Publications Sports Director JR Radcliffe provides tidbits and details from the Lake Country prep sports scene to the Wisconsin sports world at large. His weekly column presents exclusive interviews, commentaries and observations.
Why not both?
This is my first basketball season as a parent, so I find myself with a new factor when choosing which nights I attend basketball games. On Nov. 27, I had a rare luxury – a chance to see two of the teams in our coverage area, with Mukwonago facing Waterford in a varsity doubleheader. The girls tipped at 5:45 p.m., and the boys followed at 7:30 p.m.
What an awesome occasion. The gate intake is higher than usual for MHS, parents with kids in both programs no longer have to choose where to go, the teams themselves get a rare chance to cheer on their counterparts, and the local beat reporter can cover more ground than usual. It made me wonder why we don’t see these more often.
I asked some of the athletic directors in the Classic 8 Conference, and all were very receptive to the idea. Mike Fink at Kettle Moraine said he welcomes interest from any program willing to participate in such an occasion with the Lasers basketball program. Andy Trudell at Mukwonago noted that during his time in northern school districts where travel was greater, doubleheaders are downright common. Kevin Flegner of Arrowhead said he proposed their broader implementation in the Classic 8 a couple years ago.
Flegner noted that most parts of the state play boys and girls games on separate nights, allowing parents, fans and players a chance to attend both games. Only in suburban Milwaukee do we really see boys and girls games played concurrently at opposite sites (in most cases). He recalled a recent occasion when Arrowhead tried to double up with Kettle Moraine, but weather got in the way, and a more traditional option was pursued to make up for the postponement.
Waterford has four doubleheaders on their schedule this year. The Brookfield schools typically play doubleheaders in the Greater Metro. Programs like Cedarburg and Grafton in the North Shore frequently have doubleheaders – one for each meeting in the conference slate. And that’s probably one of the stumbling blocks; for a conference opponent, schools would essentially need to schedule it twice so both teams had a chance to host home games. Though unusual, I don’t really see that as all that challenging.
The biggest issue, however, is a logistical one: space constraints. The idea of a doubleheader is downright impossible for a school that lacks multiple gyms capable of hosting spectator basketball. Most freshman games begin at 4:15 p.m., followed by JV at 5:45 p.m. Only with dual gyms can both freshman games be played at 4:15 p.m., then one of the JV games can be paired with each varsity game at 5:45 and 7:30 p.m. Even if the gym exists, scheduling conflicts with other practicing teams (wrestling, gymnastics) or competitions stand in the way.
Off-campus gyms at middle schools defeat the purpose of having the games in one building and also handicaps coaches who may wish to bring JV players up to the varsity and split time between levels.
However, as fundraising efforts focus on improvement of athletic facilities, more and more schools are getting the adequate gym space and facilities to create the proper environment for doubleheaders. As galvanizing as it is to have both halves of the basketball program under the same roof for one night, I have to think schools will entertain the idea. Flegner said he wouldn’t be surprised to see doubleheaders become a small part of the Classic 8 schedule in the next couple years.
It’s especially intriguing at a place like Arrowhead or Mukwonago, where both the boys and girls teams are legitimate contenders for the league titles. Kettle Moraine has a 4-0 boys team and a girls team at 3-1 as of Wednesday. Pewaukee also has teams usually competitive on both sides of the docket in the Woodland, and the Pirates already have one of the more travel-intensive schedules in the area with the majority of opponents in Milwaukee County, and this would lessen the travel scheduling to a degree.
It’s one of the great components of the prep basketball season. I hope we see more of it.