Radtke: IHSA sends message of hope, but it's ill-advised
Remember the game many of us played as kids called "Kick the Can?"
What the Illinois High School Association did Tuesday was just that, and that can has a lot of worms crawling out of it.
The IHSA's board of directors canceled the spring state tournament series Tuesday, as was expected.
What wasn't expected was this statement from Executive Director Craig Anderson:
"The possibility of playing a spring sport game this summer is about closure. If we are able to offer this opportunity, no student-athlete would be restricted by having already practiced or competed with a nonschool team."
While noble in nature, leaving a glimmer of hope that any events, sports or otherwise, could take place at high schools in Illinois this spring or summer, is like the last guy above water on the Titanic thinking he's going to be rescued.
"With all due respect to the IHSA, if in-person instruction is canceled for the remainder of the school year (with some district calendars extended into mid-June), then I do not understand holding out hope for athletics," Elgin Area School District U-46 superintendent Tony Sanders said.
"To me, this is declaring that trying to salvage a season is more important than trying to return for classroom instruction."
Sanders' point is well taken. The IHSA continues to send a message of hope, even though the state's death toll and number of new cases continues to rise, and reports continue to circulate that Gov. J.B. Pritzker is considering extending the stay-at-home order scheduled to expire April 30.
The IHSA, via Anderson's statement, did make clear that any hope of events would be "dependent upon state government and medical leaders giving the go ahead for such."
"We were making a determination more about the state tournament series but leaving open the possibility that schools could have some kind of a spring sports season if their conference or school district decided that was a way to go," said Fremd principal Kurt Tenopir, who is a member of the IHSA board of directors.
Seniors around the state now await the possibility of senior night events and closure to their high school careers that can be in person with their teammates. Some will embrace the idea, some won't. And, hopefully, if given a choice, they will decide wisely and consult their parents before making that decision.
"I think it's a great idea and the whole idea is to have an open mind and accept whatever comes," said Burlington Central senior soccer player Zoey Kollhoff, who will take her talents to the University of Illinois whenever sports resume. "If we had the opportunity to have a senior night I'd love it, but if the cards don't fall that way and it's not the safest option you have to learn to accept it. It's hard to accept but it is what it is."
And while some may feel it's not fair, geography will play a role in the decision-making. All you have to do is look at the numbers statewide to see the evidence -- our area is being hit harder by the pandemic than western, central and southern Illinois.
"Geography normally plays a huge role in the IHSA's decisions because the state has such a wide range," Tenopir said. "The challenges for schools in our area are greater. But there might be parts of the state where there might be resumption of some spring sports."
As fluid as this whole situation is, Kollhoff's assessment is spot on for all of us -- we have to learn to accept it.
What we need to accept is that what's going on in our lives now is far more important than any senior night or any game. While we all agree it's sad for the seniors, it would be so much worse if our desire to play a game or have a senior night became the source of more infection.
It's too bad the IHSA isn't seeing it that way.