On April 21, the Illinois High School Association’s (IHSA) Board of Directors stated that all spring sports state tournaments were canceled, in addition to summer contact days. This decision came after Governor J.B. Pritzker’s announcement earlier in the week, declaring that all public and private schools in Illinois will be closed for in-person learning the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
In conjunction with Pritzker’s order, IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson explained on their website, “We support the decision by Governor Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education, and given the logistics, we simply felt we could not conduct state tournaments that meet the expectations of our member schools this spring.”
“As disappointing as it may be for students, it is the right decision for their health and safety, as well as for the health and safety of the general public, as we cope with this unprecedented pandemic,” he continued.
The IHSA also pronounced that all summer contact days — organized summer sports — and practices will go on hiatus until further notice. Anderson explained, “Once it is determined safe to return, we will provide a detailed outline to our schools on the plan for summer contact days and possibly some kind of spring athletic events.” As soon as the state government and medical officials give the OK, there is still a possibility the spring season will resume with significant alterations as to how many days coaches can meet with athletes. The IHSA would also have to create new contact guidelines and will have to consider issuing a limited number of games teams can play if the summer season is still on.
The IHSA offers a variety of spring sports, such as track and field, water polo, lacrosse, girls soccer, badminton and softball as well as boys baseball, tennis, gymnastics, volleyball and bass fishing.
Although the future of spring sports is still unclear, the shortened season may extend into the summer. “This would require a change to the season limitation bylaws, which determine when you can start practice, when you can start competition, when the IHSA state series begins and when that state series ends,” expressed Athletic Director Mr. John Woods. This decision would be followed by an acclimatization period, which would allow athletes to practice their sports and regain skills.
“We’re either going to come out better or we’re going to come back worse from social distancing. The growth [that] we commit to and invest in ourselves is going to determine what we’re going to be like when we come back, whether it be physically or mentally. It is not going to be for nothing because it will pay off in the long run,” Mr. Woods said.
Head Varsity Baseball Coach Mr. Matt Thompson said that his team has been using Zoom to stay connected and in addition, they have been completing performance trainer Faith Ekakitie’s online workouts. Ekakitie works in the LHS weight room and leads virtual workouts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2:30-3:10 p.m.
In order to keep his team occupied, Coach Thompson created a fundraiser, the “Home Game Challenge,” which collects donations to combat hunger in the midst of the global pandemic: “We had the players shoot a video of themselves playing some kind of game at home, whether it be a board game or shooting baskets in their front yard.” The varsity team compiled the clips into a video and shared it with the local community to raise awareness. They encouraged families to post a picture on social media of themselves playing a game with the hashtag #HomeGameChallenge. As of April 20, the team had raised $1,200 and is donating it to the Lake County Food Bank.
Because of the pandemic’s significant effect on spring sports, college recruitment will also be more challenging for this year’s juniors, explained Mr. Thompson. “We had some juniors that definitely can play in college and probably will, so they kind of miss out on an opportunity to be seen as a junior or even some of our sophomores.”
The girls JV water polo coach, Alexandra Voelker, described how her whole team is upset over the likely end of their season. The team has also been engaged in Ekakitie’s workouts and other workouts assigned by the coaches. “We have had a couple of group video chats and created a toss-the-[toilet paper] video with the boys water polo team. We also plan on still hosting our senior night, virtually, and have end-of-season gifts for the girls.”
Sophomore Campbell Clarkson plays on the varsity softball team and, like many of her fellow spring athletes, was upset at the season’s expected cancellation.
“I’m disappointed because I really wanted to play this season and I didn’t get to learn skills from the seniors. I also feel bad for the freshmen because they don’t really understand the ‘team culture’ that we have and they don’t know us very well.”
Campbell and her team have stayed in touch throughout quarantine and planned on doing a senior night drive-by to surprise the senior athletes. As for maintaining her training, “Our coach suggested for us to work out and has sent us the link to Faith’s workouts. She also told us to do what we can to practice like catch and hit.”