Spring sports season in limbo

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Pictured, Waterloo High School soccer player Paige Kinzinger is hopeful she will be able to play her senior season for the Bulldogs this spring.

This week’s issue of the Republic-Times was supposed to include our 2020 Spring Sports Preview of local high school baseball, softball, girls soccer, track and tennis teams, but the continued spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) suddenly threw that all out of whack.

The state-mandated closure of school that began Tuesday in Illinois and lasts at least through March 30 has put the future of prep sports in limbo across the state. 

That follows in line with professional sports leagues and college athletics throughout America.

“There’s not much going on in the world of sports right now,” Waterloo School District Athletic Director Mitch North said.

The Illinois High School Association canceled the state boys basketball tournaments and all school-related sports activities have ceased until further notice.

North told the Waterloo School Board during Monday’s meeting that he has contacted all teams on spring schedules through the end of the month to confirm that there will be no games, including against Missouri teams. 

And with time needed for athletes to ramp up their activity in preparation for competition once school returns to session, early April looks unlikely for games as well.

“Even if we’re able to go back on (March 31), we’re probably not going to play a game the first day we’re back,” North said. “So everything’s wiped out up to that.” 

It’s an unfortunate situation for many student-athletes – especially for seniors who may or may not be playing their favorite sport for the final time.

“The Illinois High School Association is supportive of the stance taken by the Illinois State Superintendent of Schools that no IHSA member school should organize their teams for any spring sport practices or games while Illinois high schools are closed through March 30,” the IHSA stated in a press release. “National, state and local governmental leaders are clear: To help our country slow the spread of this pandemic, the best thing society can do is limit its interaction with one another. So, despite how difficult this may be, the IHSA strongly recommends students, parents and nonschool coaches/trainers follow this advice. Doing so could ultimately end up salvaging the spring sports season.”

The IHSA said March 30 “remains the target date” to resume practices and games, but it is just too early to tell.

“Coaches will ultimately need to work in conjunction with their local school administration, as some school districts may choose to be more restrictive in their decisions to return teams to practice or games,” the IHSA said.

 Bylaws do not allow a student-athlete who is in-season to participate on a club or travel team of the same sport and then return to play for their high school team, the IHSA said.

Student-athletes competing in a spring sport for their high school can practice or play a fall or winter sport with a nonschool team while school is closed.

A group of student-athletes on a spring sports team can gather together and practice on their own while school is closed, the IHSA said, as long as the school and coach are not officially organizing the practice.

If the entire spring sports season is canceled due to COVID-19, there is no extra year of eligibility offered, the IHSA said.

“Students have eight semesters of eligibility that begin when they enter ninth grade,” the IHSA said.

A Twitter post from @Coach_Nick87 may have summarized this situation best:

“A school superintendent said something profound in his address canceling school for the next three weeks. He said: In the end, it will be impossible to know if we overreacted or did too much, but it will be QUITE apparent if we underreacted or did too little,” the tweet states, adding “Hear those words.”

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