Winter Season is here; sports are not

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Photo via Pixabay under Creative Commons license

Maddy Mirallegro, Co-Editor in Chief

The familiar sound of shoes squeaking on the court, the loud cheers from the sideline and  show stopping performance for halftime are  missing from the gym right now.

This winter sports season is now up in the air due to the sports mandate that Gov. J.B. Pritzker released on Oct. 27.

“As with sports in the fall, nothing is ‘canceled’, just put on hold until we’re through the thick of the pandemic,” Pritzker said in the daily press briefing.“We adapt as we learn.”

According to Pritzker, there will be multiple levels for how the season will progress. Level one allows for no-contact practices with training. Level two allows for team scrimmages with parents’ consent for their child, and level three allows for games with teams from in the league. Tournaments and out-of-league games are only allowed in level four.  

The ISHA (Illinois High School Association) issued a statement on Oct.28 saying that all low-contact sports will be able to continue as normal, while a high-risk sport such as wrestling has been moved to the summer season.

“These sports will be conducted from November 16, 2020, to February 13, 2021,” the IHSA board said.

According to the National Federation of State High School, some of the winter sports are considered to be high risk such as competitive cheerleading and dance. While it is not as high risk, basketball is still considered to be moderate risk for contracting the illness. 

“Based on current conditions, lower risk sports can be played at levels one, two and three,” according to the mandate from the governor’s office. “Medium risk sports can be played at levels one and two and higher risk sports can be played at level one.”

North athletics currently in season have established before and after practice protocols. Girl’s Basketball already has a routine for their practice.

“We check temps outside of door X, then they use hand sanitizer before they enter the gym,” varsity girl’s basketball head coach Michaela Reedy said. “After practice, they sanitize after putting their ball away, the girls exit the gym and then we spray down all the basketballs.”

Some activities such as Dance Team practice both in the building and virtually. The dance team incorporates Zoom into their new practice regimen for this season.

“We come in, warm up and work on dance technique with team building happening on Zoom,” varsity dance team head coach Callie Gliwa said.

As of now, the Dance Team is able to compete.

“The competitions we are currently registered for are virtual, so we will have to record our dance and submit by a certain date for each competition,” Gliwa said.

How often practices run will depend on the scheduling for each sport. Competitive Cheer practices four days a week. 

“Practices are Monday-Thursday from 4:30-6:30 and our competition recordings will be Fridays,” varsity cheer senior Ella Gribble said.

The upcoming seasons for all winter sports are up in the air. As of now, if they are allowed to move forward, guidelines will need to be followed. 

“Guidelines state all participants players, coaches, officials, athletic trainers, etc. must wear masks at all times,” Athletic Director Ron Lear said.“Only 50 people [are] allowed in a facility.”

The indecisiveness of the season is stressful for athletes trying to earn sports scholarships. Reedy has her own method of helping get students’ names out to colleges.

“I have been sending out emails to college coaches that my seniors and juniors are interested in,” Reedy said. “They have also been doing this on their own. Each player has a highlight video that they have been sending out to colleges of their choice.”

The Dance Team already uses Zoom to get dance scholarships through Dance Combines.

“These [scholarships through Dance Combines] are virtual this year, so dancers will submit a video of themselves performing certain movements and different combinations they learn via Zoom,” Gliwa said.

Even with strict protocols in place, a potential incident occurred during the fall season.  

“We had two programs shut down in November due to a positive COVID test,” Lear said.

Coaches are currently playing it by ear with what to do if cases spike, and the winter season becomes shut down.

“I am taking this one day at a time and making sure we accomplish as much as I can during the time we have,” Gliwa said.

Illinois high school athletics is in a holding pattern for now with what to do due to the rise of cases.

“As far as backup plans, we are waiting to see if winter sports will happen due to the recent rise in COVID cases,” Lear said.

In light of the recent rise in cases, North’s basketball season has been officially shut down.

“District 202 will not allow students to participate in basketball, although the Illinois High School Association last week said schools could do so starting November 16, 2020,” said Public Relations Director Tom Hernadez in a district email.

Even though practices have been cancelled, the athletes are still allowed to train for the season.

“We will be allowed to start open gyms again after Thanksgiving break,” Reedy said.“They will be non-contact, and the girls will be split into pods in order to help with social distancing.”

Other teams such as dance, are planning for a complete virtual season.

“Our tryouts for winter season will be virtual, and if we get shut down, we will continue with virtual practices,” Gliwa said.

As of Nov.18 the plan for North winter sports is currently on pause by the IHSA and the Pritzker.

“This means no contests, practices, open gyms or any activities at all until further notice,” Lear said.