Younger athletes must make up for lost time after missing full spring season
Allie Goodwin has wrapped up her freshman year as a student at Barrington High School.
Unfortunately she never got a chance to wrap up -- or even start -- her freshman year as a softball player for one of the state's most dominant programs.
After leading her Barrington Middle School-Station Campus team to back-to-back appearances in the Illinois Elementary School Association Class AA state finals in 2017 and 2018, Goodwin couldn't wait for her first game at the high school level with her same middle school coach, Perry Peterson.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that never happened.
"It kind of stinks but I'll keep preparing by playing great travel season competition when we get going," said Goodwin, a second baseman/pitcher who plays for the New Lenox Lightning travel team. "I hope we can make it far in my final three years (at Barrington)."
The Fillies were hoping to make it far this spring, with no fewer than five combined freshmen or sophomores probably in the starting infield.
So how will missing a full season of softball affect these underclassmen?
"My take is that even though they didn't play their freshman year, they're going to be just fine," said Barrington hall of farmer Peterson. "They play enough competitive, high level travel softball that they will just keep progressing and they'll do well when they become sophomores and juniors next year."
Peterson said even if they have limited travel ball in the summer -- Goodwin said she has had two tournaments already canceled -- there is still plenty of fall ball.
"These kids play for good travel organizations and they'll do a great job at getting better," Peterson said. "I'm confident that we'll be very proud of them when their time comes next spring."
While Goodwin and her teammates already have middle school experience in their sport, that is not an option for players headed to Wheaton Warrenville South's powerful boys volleyball program.
"For us, we don't have middle school volleyball in our district," said Tigers veteran coach Bill Schreier, now in his 22nd season. "So basically for our players, unless they have an older brother or sister, high school volleyball tryouts are their first experience in the sport. So it does put freshmen behind a bit."
Also, there is the uncertainty of when you can start up again.
"How do you make up this time?" Schreier said. "You can go play club but if they're not playing in the fall then you'll have to maybe wait til next winter or later. There are so many things up in the air, it's hard to say."
The veteran coach did say he knows of some clubs starting up with limitations.
"My son is a sophomore at Neuqua Valley and he starts next week at his club,' Schreier said. "But they're not going to tournaments. They might have a couple of play dates but they're not really sure yet. They just go in and do some drills and leave. It's just a coach and some limited players on the court."
Schreier's son was going to be on the junior varsity this spring at Neuqua Valley.
"It was important for him to have gotten his high school season and then hit the ground running again into summer and fall. Now, things are really contingent on what they can do in the fall."
Schreier says his program has a good share of two-sport athletes.
"That's a little more unique, too," he added. "So we'll just have to wait and see what those kids do. We have a pretty good core group so hopefully we should be OK."
For freshmen who would have been major contributors on the varsity team this fall, their chances at setting all-time program records are reduced.
Four-year player Zack Meyer, a 2016 grad, is the Tigers' career leader in kills (1,318) followed by 2001 alum Sean Rooney (1,313), a three-year varsity player.
"Zack would not have broken Sean's record if he didn't have that freshman year," Schreier said. "Over their sophomore, junior and senior seasons, Sean had more kills than Zack.
Mundelein baseball coach Randy Lerner, a Wheeling graduate now in his third year as head coach and 14th in the program, believes there might not be a lot of summer ball for his players.
"I would say this is going to absolutely affect the development," Lerner said. "Think of taking off this much time with any skills you have and not getting any feedback in practice. Obviously, it's going to have some kind of affect.
"But the young kids have time. We've given them some individual skill work to do on their own. We've tried to guide them to good YouTube videos and things that coaches have posted on Twitter."
Lerner said not being part of a team for the year and learning the program system is a setback.
"It will have some affect on our mentality and practice system but all schools are in the same boat," Lerner added. "Without seeing what our freshmen, sophomores and juniors were all about and how they can compete, it will be a challenge to figure out things in a small amount of time whenever we start up again."