NIU softball practices late at night at the DeKalb rec

By Katie Leb

When rain turned into ice Monday night, it was easy to use bad weather as an excuse to curl up on the couch and watch the tube.

NIU softball, however, was gathering up its gear and driving to the outskirts of town for practice, a ritual the players have grown accustomed to.

With uncooperative weather in Illinois usually lasting until about mid-March, the team has to find somewhere to begin taking live drills and swinging the bat. The Huskies found that option in the DeKalb Park District Sports and Recreation Center, 1765 S. 4th St.

“It’s better than practicing in the snow, that’s for sure,” said junior Morgan Bittner. “I would much rather be inside than outdoors.”

The Long Beach, Calif. native admitted she did not think about having to practice indoors when she first came to NIU three years ago, as her hometown allows for year-long outdoor play.

The team uses the facility on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, while the day practices are held at the NIU Campus Recreation Center. Outfielder Dani Parrish said she would much rather be in the DeKalb Rec for the purpose of her position.

“In the NIU Rec you don’t get much done,” Parrish said. “You have the basketball hoops hanging. Having [the DeKalb Rec], it’s big enough to play a scrimmage. We actually get a lot of work done in there.”

Since the facility is available for community use, the schedule for the DeKalb Rec has to be balanced with other groups that wish to use it, including other NIU teams. As a result, the softball team follows a little league practice on Monday and a men’s slow pitch team on Tuesdays.

“It’s strange having to practice at such late hours, but it makes sense when you think about the younger kids’ teams when they have to go to bed [since] when you’re 8 years old you can’t be practicing until three in the morning,” Bittner said.

Compared to last year’s practice schedule, which Parrish said included practices until 2 a.m., this year’s practice times are agreeable. But she is thankful to a rule change that caused this change.

The NCAA adopted a bylaw on Jan. 16, 2010 ( stating that “athletically-related activities may not occur between midnight and 5 a.m.”

Even with the late practice times, this squad seems to prefer it to the early morning option.

“It’s not that big of a deal for us,” senior Andrea Colosimo said. “A lot of us would rather practice at night than in the morning for some crazy reason. We’re used to this from last year. Some of the freshmen were like ‘what time do we have practice?'”

The adjustment to practicing at night, followed sometimes by day practices has not only been an adjustment to the freshmen. Bittner said it is difficult to change her schedule back and forth, but she has been able to fit in her naps when necessary and stay up all night if demanded of her.

As the Huskies continue to use the indoor facilities, longing for the snow to melt, they remember the one day this season that DeKalb weather cooperated long enough to allow the only outdoor practice thus far.

“Last Friday we got to go outside for the first time and there’s snow on the warning track of our field, but we were super excited to be out there,” Parrish said. “It didn’t even matter.”