Editorial: IHSA directives help foster some prep sports dreams, but we must stay ready to adapt
Glenbard West High School football tight end Denin Limouris spoke for young athletes, parents and prep sports fans across the suburbs when he said in a story reported Tuesday by our Orrin Schwarz, "We really don't want this season taken away from us."
Limouris and his Hilltoppers have dreams of state championship glory this season, but whether or not such lofty expectations are realistic in all circumstances, every player and every fan longs for the opportunity to experience the uniquely powerful emotions of athletic competition. The joy of big dreams. The pride of constant improvement. The thrill of achievement, even if it sometimes is tempered with the sting of disappointment. These are ever-present drivers of the high school experience.
And it looks like, although modified, most athletes will not yet lose them entirely to the pandemic in the school year ahead.
On Wednesday, the Illinois High School Association issued directives designed to permit sports according to conditions set forth by Gov. J.B. Pritzker under guidance from the state Department of Public Health. Sports are broken into three classes of risk based on the amount of contact involved and the proximity of players to each other. Four levels of play are created depending on health conditions, ranging from contactless practices to tournaments and out-of-conference competition.
It's not a dream scenario. Autumn's "Friday Night Lights" tradition of prep football games will be moved to the spring, along with girls volleyball and boys soccer, while other fall sports -- golf, cross country and girls swimming and tennis -- will stay put. But it may help everyone to stay protected and safe, which -- dreams of glory or no -- must remain the primary, ongoing consideration, for the students themselves, of course, as well as for all the people they may come in contact with.
"Changes may come," acknowledged said IHSA executive director Craig Anderson, "and if they do, we will be agile while putting safety and students first."
No other approach is prudent or reasonable, which means a measure of uncertainty will hang over every athlete from this fall's cross country runners to Limouris and suburban football players everywhere next spring. Already we are seeing how capricious this disease can be as school districts north, south, east and west find themselves abruptly changing previously announced plans for fall reopening. And, as dear as extracurricular dreams are to high school athletes, they are no less so for high school actors and actress, dancers, speech contestants, singers, musicians and more.
No one, whatever our aspirations and endeavors, wants this season "taken away from us," but a frustrating reality of this unnerving year is that that prospect looms constantly over our shoulders. Thankfully, the IHSA has given student athletes a glimmer of hope to cling to. May we all be so fortunate yet always prepared to adapt throughout the seasons ahead.