Answer on attending national tournaments this summer should be a simple one

  • Stevenson senior Justin Ross (14) was looking forward to playing in USA Volleyball's Junior Nationals in Reno, Nev.

      Stevenson senior Justin Ross (14) was looking forward to playing in USA Volleyball's Junior Nationals in Reno, Nev. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/18/2020 1:10 PM

Decisions, decisions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has society into a different form of living in ways we would never have imagined a few short months ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

One of those different forms of living applies to many parents who are having to decide about traveling to a club sports tournament this summer.

Forget for a moment many club events in virtually every sport are being canceled or postponed to a future date -- or the ones making plans to play are doing so under stranger-than-strange modified health restrictions.

The most valuable places club teams in most sports go in the summer are out of state. Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, California. Missouri, which recently held a 47-team travel baseball tournament, usually has 180 teams attend.

So, what to do?

Parents don't want to disappoint their teenage athlete, many of whom get much of their motivation from a chance to strike gold at the end of the rainbow at nationals, a place where there are scholarship opportunities for those not heading to college.

Mom, dad and siblings want to go to nationals. For many of them, it's their summer vacation.

Coaches want to go. They've formed a competitive team that gets to culminate its hard work by competing against the best of the best at a national tournament.

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Host organizations want to hold their events. For many it would be financial ruins, or close to it, if they had to cancel an event or events that make or break their bank accounts. And that's not to mention the financial impact these events have on the host cities.

According to Forbes, the youth sports industry contributed $20 billion to the economy in 2018. That's $2 billion more than the NFL. Seminole County near Orlando, Fla., has lost more than $10 million to canceled events, according to fox35orlando.com.

One organization yet to cancel or postpone its junior nationals is USA Volleyball. Several youth sports organizations -- including USA Gymnastics and USA Taekwondo -- have canceled summer seasons and events.

That's left clubs like Adversity Volleyball Club in Vernon Hills and families like Justin Ross' in a murky situation.

"The thought of not going is killing me but I do not want to be responsible for going and having a kid get sick," said Keith Kujawa, the boys program director and travel coordinator for Adversity Volleyball Club. He told players and parents of the eight teams signed up to go to Reno in an email Friday the decision had been made to pull Adversity's teams from the Reno event.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Ross, a Stevenson senior, plays for Adversity's 18U Adidas team. Having lost his senior high school season to the shutdown, Ross was looking forward to competing in Reno before he heads to Loyola University this fall to play volleyball and study environmental science.

"It's a huge bummer," Ross said of not going to Reno. "You work the entire year to go to junior nationals and work for the gold. It's really disappointing but I think people need to listen to the scientists."

Ross' mom, Felicia, believes USA Volleyball should make a decision on canceling the tournament.

"It put the onus on the parents and coaches," she said. "I hope USA Volleyball makes a decision. We're heartbroken. There's already been a lot of loss and grief and this adds to the pile. Canceling would be the responsible thing for USA Volleyball to do."

Communications directors for USA Volleyball did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls for comment. The USA Volleyball website was last updated May 8 and has a statement saying the tournament is scheduled as planned. As of Friday there were 253 teams from across the country registered to play.

The AAU national girls volleyball tournament, scheduled June 16 to 28 in Orlando with more than 800 teams registered, has been rescheduled for mid-July.

We implore the national organizations in all club sports who have yet to cancel their national tournaments to do so. Why they would want to risk the spread of the virus over a volleyball, softball, baseball, basketball or any other tournament where thousands of people are traveling in from all over the country is unfathomable.

While the possibility of local tournaments in some sports, mostly those played outdoors, is hanging onto a glimmer of hope for this summer, to club teams in all sports in and around the suburbs who are thinking of throwing caution to the wind this summer and traveling out of state to play in a large participation event, especially one that would require air travel, we offer an answer to the question, "To go or not to go."

Don't.

jradtke@dailyherald.com

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