What Winter Sports Will Look Like In Smaller Schools
By Al Zipsie
One thing is certain in these times of Covid-19. And that is nothing is certain.
With another spike of the coronavirus in Illinois, it has put the plan on high school sports in Illinois in chaos.
The mostly no contact fall sports season is over. The boys' and girls' basketball season was to start practice on November 16th with games starting November 30th.
On October 28th, the Illinois high school Association announced the boys' and girls' basketball seasons would begin as scheduled. This despite the Illinois Department of Public Health saying they were high risk during the pandemic. Governor J.B. Pritzker recommended they be put on hold.
"We've told school districts what the rules are and I think they all know" said Pritzker. So IHSA may have their views if it but school districts know what the rules are and it is unfortunate but they probably would be taking on legal liability. They went ahead and moved beyond what the state has set as the mitigation standard."
"I really don't know what is going to happen from now until November 30th'" said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. "It's a big deal to say Government officials and the health department, that we are going to go in a different direction from how you are advising. I have no idea how this is going to play out for us."
"As with sports in the fall nothing is canceled just put on hold until we're through the thick of this pandemic'" added Pritzker. "If there is a difference of opinion I prefer to error on the side of health and safety."
"I get it, you know, COVID is something we need to be concerned about and we continue to do so," said Anderson. "But if there's a place where students should be competing, it's within our schools where safety guidelines that we put forward are followed and students can reap all the benefits of participation."
The IHSA says it's up to individual school districts to determine if they play. It went from medium to high risk under IUPH guidelines. All players, coaches, and officials would have to ball wear masks while playing basketball. Only 50 people will be allowed in the gym which will not allow any fans.
The Deputy Gov. Jesse Ruiz told Anderson the IHSA could face ramifications from the Illinois State Board of Education if the IHSA goes against the guidelines from the IUPH. And defying Governeo's orders the Illinois State Board of Education could withhold funding.
"I have not had time to think about it," said Anderson. "I guess that is a possibility. I would hope that wouldn't be the case."
"As for basketball and the IHSA/IDPH, I understand the concern to be proactive due to Covid-19'" said Dakota Athletic Director Chad Ferguson. "However, I feel students and student-athletes are safer at school and at practices due to all the precautions and safety protocols that are in place. We need to start thinking about the social aspects athletics does for students. We need to start thinking about their mental health and what affects missing out on playing a sport or do I g an activity does for their overall wellbeing."
The IHSA board put out a statement. "We understand that this decision will impact each high school and district differently. Some schools that remain in remote learning may not be able to start winter sports on time and we feel for those in that situation. However, we also learned that we cannot continue to look down the road to a season that may never come. Illinois is a large diverse state and IHSA state members are reflective of that."
It was also announced that wrestling has been moved from the winter to the summer season which starts April 19. The summer season also includes boys and girls track, baseball, and softball.
"I understand the move of wrestling from winter to summer, said Dakota's Ferguson. "Without the move, the only other option would be to cancel the wrestling season. This still gives hope for those student/athletes to compete. The downfall is now athletes have to pick between baseball, wrestling, and track."
The winter season in the NUIC will only include basketball. The spring season with games starting March 5th will be football which was moved from the fall along with volleyball.
Like the other sports, the season may have moved with hope the pandemic will weaken and the seasons will be played. Wrestling being an indoor winter high contact sport has been moved to the summer season. Wrestlers will still be able to play football in the spring. But will now be in the same season as baseball and track and will be a decision for some in what sport to play. Nothing is normal in these days of a pandemic, but hopefully, the season will be able to be played. Last year Dakota got in the wrestling team championship before Covid forced the basketball boys state tournament to be canceled followed by no spring sports.
Dakota and Lena-Winslow will both be wrestling powerhouses and in the running for the state championship. One of the two schools has won the state title seven of the last eight years. They are hoping they will have the chance to have a season. While one thing will be the same wrestling will follow football. But instead of fall and winter, it's now spring and summer.
"I have mixed emotions about the decision," said Lena-Winslow/Stockton wrestling Kevin Milder. "I am excited about the move that will provide a better opportunity for the kids, especially our seniors, to wrestle this season. However, I am concerned that we are now asking multi-sports athletes to have to pick one sport over another. There are so many programs that struggle to get kids out, and this will just make it even more difficult. It will definitely be an interesting season. I know there are more hurdles to go through before a season is a reality, but I think moving to summer gives us a better chance to compete."