When 13th seed Plainfield East recorded the final on Saturday to win the Class 4A State Baseball Championship against Lake Park, it capped an unprecedented high school athletic season in many ways.
The main reason was the pandemic, which plunged the sporting calendar into chaos: football in March, wrestling in May, and athletes balancing the gratitude of playing with the disappointment of the lack of a playoff for some.
“A challenge and a transformation,” said Dave Carli.
This is how the Geneva sports director replied when I asked the ADs to describe the school year in a few words.
“Thrilling but grateful,” said Marty Manning of Schaumburg.
The school year began with football, volleyball for the girls and soccer for the boys, all moved from fall to spring. Everyone has learned – or been confused by – the difference between low, medium, and high risk sports, and all kinds of different phases, levels, and metrics needed to switch between them.
This happened as the majority of states played these sports during their traditional fall seasons. This led to a handful of Illinois athletes moving to new states to play, and to the frustration of many here who couldn’t play.
Illinois continued into the fall with golf, tennis, swimming, and cross-country but no state tournaments, and with new guidelines for everything that included social distancing, masks, and absence. of fans.
With COVID measures worsening and basketball season approaching in November, high school sports have taken another hiatus. Further contradictions arose between the Illinois High School Association who wanted to get into winter sports and the governor who didn’t, and it looked like there might be no basketball at all. -ball.
That changed at the end of January. Suddenly the sprint was on for a six week basketball season which led to a six week football season and the just ended summer season which has certainly been “tough and transformed”, as Carli said.
“Over the past 12 months, but especially the past five months, it has been a constant and ever-changing sports landscape,” Manning said. “It has been difficult for the athletes, coaches and athletic directors. I am grateful that we were able to offer our athletes, especially our seniors, some sort of sports season.
“From the IHSA, to the officials, to our workers at the events, it was a team effort to give our athletes a chance to participate. For as tough as this year has been, it was great to see it all. the world working together to give these student-athletes a chance to compete and play sports with their classmates. ”
Wauconda hosted 50 home events from March 17 through June. Sporting director Mark Ribbens said some changes this year could be here to stay, such as live streaming and procedures such as bus stops and digital ticketing.
Ribbens chose “mentally exhausting” to describe the year; Bob Quinn of Naperville North has gone for “growth”.
Like her colleagues, Quinn has been through the past five chaotic months, as phrases like “COVID breaks” and “quarantine breaks” have become a norm. Football teams playing all six games turned out to be a win while others played three or four. This continued into the spring with teams navigating new guidelines and ADs scrambling to reschedule games when teams had to cancel.
“There’s no question this has been a tough year,” Quinn said. “I can honestly say this is the hardest I’ve worked in 35 years in education.”
Quinn said by nature that educators are planners and that the vast majority of this year has revolved around speculation. Similar to Ribbens, Quinn called it an “emotionally draining” experience.
And yet, Quinn said the prevailing emotion is positive.
“I am incredibly proud of our community of Naperville-Nord,” he said. “This includes coaches, families and student-athletes. We were able to save the competition for each of our sports. Some got an IHSA state series, some didn’t. Nonetheless, they all played. Our coaches adapted, worked hard, and functioned outside of normalcy in an effort to keep students connected and ready for a comeback.
“Our families were patient, flexible, confident and pushed us to maximize participation while keeping everyone safe. Our student-athletes remained positive, demonstrated resilience and were ready when the whistle blew. have all succeeded and we are better. “
And here is hoping we will never see another year like this.
When it’s August 27th and we have Friday night football, we hope we take a moment to enjoy the groups, the cheerleaders, the student sections and the crowded booths – and the return of high school sports such. that we know and love him.