How Much Are Students Willing to Risk for a Return to Sports?


With Governor J.B. Pritzker’s intense restrictions on sports this year, many high-level athletes will do whatever it takes to get back on the field, to the track, or in the pool. In the fall, Gov. Pritzker permitted some sports to have non-contact practices, as well as allowing low-risk sports—such as golf and cross country—to compete. However, since no winter sports fall into the “low-risk” category, winter sports were postponed. Many schools, like Latin, were forced to prioritize either in-person learning or in-person sports. Latin chose to prioritize the former, but some athletes aren’t sure whether they would have made that decision if it was in their hands.
Recently, Latin has begun a new hybrid model increasing the amount of in-person learning. But would athletes rather continue remote learning to have a normal season? “That’s a difficult question to answer, but I believe that I would be willing to give up in-person learning in its present state to play basketball and baseball,” said baseball captain Matthew Shrake, a senior. “That being said, my academic experience before the coronavirus was invaluable, so if school looked more like my first 12 years at Latin, I might have to reconsider my response.”
Chicago recently moved up a tier, meaning practices for contact sports such as basketball are permitted, but it’s not certain how long the city will remain in this tier.
“Obviously I would love to play my sport, but if it’s no-contact practices, then I would rather continue in-person learning,” said senior soccer captain Colin Campbell. “Although, if we had the chance to play scrimmages or even conference-only games, I would for sure do that and do school online,” he added.
Field hockey captain Vivie Koo has a somewhat different opinion. “I do not know if I would be able to go back to staying inside my house all day doing school alone, because going into school and having social interactions with a wider range of people has made each day more noteworthy and spontaneous, which is a lot to ask to give up for a sport,” she said.
Some athletes at Latin are looking for alternative routines for their restricted or postponed seasons. Junior soccer player Sam Gibson has been disappointed with his lack of time and training on the soccer field. “I’m seriously considering joining a club soccer team in the suburbs, because they have more opportunities to practice and easier access to facilities during COVID,” Sam said. “They have been practicing for weeks now.”
Similarly, junior soccer player Ascher Cahn has done whatever he can to practice, even on some of the coldest winter days. “As my club and school soccer seasons have been canceled, the last few months some of my Latin teammates and I have gotten together a few times a week outside for socially distanced, and masked, practices,” Ascher said.
So if students are finding alternatives to practice on their own, would it be beneficial for athletes to have a season with limited practices and limited contact with one another?
“A spring season would not be as useful to me now because, thankfully, I am already set up to continue my athletic career in college,” Matthew said. “I feel for anyone pursuing college athletics, because the cancelation of school seasons makes it so athletes miss some opportunities to show off their skills to coaches.”
Colin, however, said he feels that the season would still benefit him even though he is already set to play college soccer. “Soccer was only allowed 20 days in the fall to practice, and so getting back on the field is a huge priority,” he said. “I do think the IHSA should revisit their plan for spring and summer sports though, as some summer sports, originally spring sports, may interfere with the scheduling or recoveries for us athletes.” Currently, according to the IHSA, all sports that were postponed to the spring are shifted to the summer, scheduled to end June 19. This adjustment may result in many athletes’ departure to other activities or previously established summer commitments.
“Since I have been practicing by myself at home and with different girls and teams, I have realized how much I miss being back with my true team at Latin,” said Vivie. “This season would be beneficial for me, because my motivation has been to train to be the best player and captain I can be for my season.”
As indoor dining, indoor sports, and more in-person learning opportunities slowly open up, the return of normal seasons is still unpredictable. “I would be okay not having a spring break,” Colin said. Many students will travel for spring break, and excessive traveling could very well affect sports and in-person learning following that break. “I would definitely give up dining out, going to any and all stores or indoor spaces, and traveling. Other than going into school, I would sacrifice any and all activity outside of my house to return to the sport and the team I love the most,” Vivie said.