'I wish we could play': Student-athletes, parents rally in Palatine

  • Palatine High School football players Rocco Paddack, left, and Josh Reiswig at Friday's rally with Josh's mother, Lisa Springer Reiswig.

      Palatine High School football players Rocco Paddack, left, and Josh Reiswig at Friday's rally with Josh's mother, Lisa Springer Reiswig. Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine High School football player Michael Jaggers Jr. addresses the crowd at Friday's rally.

      Palatine High School football player Michael Jaggers Jr. addresses the crowd at Friday's rally. Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/25/2020 11:18 PM

It wasn't exactly Friday Night Lights.

But there was a spirit of camaraderie as parents and high school athletes brought flashlights and gathered at Ost Field in Palatine for a #LetUsPlay Rally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Music blared from portable speakers and some of the athletes tossed around a football at the event, which drew between 20 and 30 people.

Among the organizers was Lisa Springer Reiswig, whose 15-year-old son, Josh, plays varsity football at Palatine High School.

"Every state around is us playing Friday night football. Why aren't we?" she said.

Josh Reiswig, a sophomore, said he is limited to practices.

"It is kind of a pain, with social distancing and stuff. You can't do everything you would normally do, but it's not that bad. It could be worse."

Still, he said, "I wish we could play."

Another member of the varsity football team, 17-year-old senior Rand Paddack, said safety measures are taken during the practices, with the players wearing masks and having their temperatures taken.

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He said he feels safe at practice and would like to play.

"It's definitely been a change, not being able to have full-contact sports," he said.

Another football player, 17-year-old senior Peter Russchenberg, said about seeing other kids in other states playing: "I don't think it's fair. I feel like we deserve the right to play. These kids need it. All of us need it,"

He said playing makes him feel more focused in school.

Not every athlete who attended was from Palatine High School.

Said Tyson Splinter, a 17-year-old senior at Prospect High School, "We're all coming together because we all love the sport of football."

In Illinois, high school football, girls volleyball and boys soccer will be played in spring, but sports including golf, swimming and tennis, deemed a lower risk for spreading COVID-19, have been allowed to compete.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said as recently as Monday that it's unlikely the high school football season will start anytime soon despite recent rallies in Chicago and Springfield.

"The virus is still out there," Pritzker said Monday. The governor noted then that professional sports leagues that have returned have testing protocols that don't exist at the high school level.

Friday's rally in Palatine initially was going to focus on football, then was expanded to all sports that haven't been allowed to return yet, Springer Reiswig said.

"We gotta support each other," said the Palatine mom, who also has children ages 8 and 12 in Palatine Township Elementary District 15.

Springer Reiswig said state and school officials are being ridiculously cautious. "We have jumped the shark at this point," she said.

While she believes kids need to go back to school, both to learn and play sports, parents should be given a choice so they can decide for themselves, she said.

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