IHSA makes plans for winter sports

As questions were raised about what sports would stay and which ones would be moved, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) board released its decision on winter sports. All of the winter sports except one would stay on track to start in November. This raised a lot of eyebrows especially about basketball as Illinois Governor JB Pritzker was strongly against basketball starting in the winter due to the sport being labeled high risk; however, the IHSA ignored the governor’s concerns and called on contests to begin at the end of November. This sparked massive controversy between the IHSA, and according to WSILTV, the governor said in a statement in response to the decision:

“Some of these sports, we’re not shutting them down, we’ve asked them to be moved to the spring – some later in the spring,” Pritzker said. “And, again, the fact that the IHSA has a different opinion,  I mean, I’ve known that for some time about different areas of sports. You know, I think it’s going to be incumbent on the schools to make decisions for themselves.” 

So what is the only sport to be moved? Wrestling. Being labeled as a high-risk sport, wrestling was moved to the summer season as their season is scheduled to start the same as lacrosse, football, and track and field on April 19.

“I think the IHSA made the obvious choice,” said wrestling head coach Colin McKillip. “A group of coaches presented to the IHSA and had the backing of the majority of coaches in the state. Wrestling coaches want to have a full season, and this was the best option to try and make that a reality.”  

Colin McKillip, the varsity wrestling head coach for the Knights, was pleased with the news as he looks to focus more on his team being more in shape for the summer season and having his wrestlers focus more on their academics.

 “I hope during this long offseason, my team is working hard in the classroom since the majority of them have no sports to worry about at this time. I don’t think we will be able to actually get in the wrestling room prior to the season, so we will work on our strength and conditioning once we are allowed to do so by the school district,” McKillip said.  “I have been honest with my team the entire time and have been sharing with them the idea that the season was most likely to get moved to the summer season. We have been working during our fall contact days primarily just to get out of the house and get some work in for the betterment of our physical and mental health.”

However, though wrestling is just another sport that got moved to the summer, it could provoke more problems for not only the student athletes but for the coaches as well as it will make athletes and coaches choose between sports which could put many people in a sticky situation as many sports like football, lacrosse, and track and field have been moved to the summer season as well. 

“I think it is going to make a few things hard,” said Grayslake North athletic director Tina Woolard. “I think it is going to be athletes that are having to choose a sport like I mentioned already. We have coaches that coach multiple seasons, and now if those seasons are now on top of each other, we won’t have enough coaches to possibly man that. That’s not fair because coaches are going to have to choose. It could also mean sharing up spaces.  So let’s pretend, and this is not an idea that’s out there at all, but let’s pretend that they decide to move basketball to the spring season. Now we have basketball and boys volleyball now trying to share spaces and athletes. So I think it’s going to lend itself for more seasons that get pushed together. It’s going to lend itself to having athletes have to choose, coaches have to choose, and us not having enough space to do all of them.”

I have a number of younger wrestlers who participate in lacrosse and track and field,” McKillip said. “They will be required to make a decision they do not normally have to make and pick between wrestling and their other sport. As we move toward the season, I will be under the assumption that all will choose their spring sport since they missed out on that season last school year as well.”

As another wave of the pandemic is inevitable and COVID-19 cases skyrocket, Grayslake North along with other schools across the country feel as though they are ready for the challenge they have to face in keeping cases low and making sure that their winter sports go along safely as planned.

 “I think our school is doing a fantastic job. I think most places are doing a fantastic job and our coaches and our athletes are doing a fantastic job following the protocols,”  Woolard said. “We did not have to shut down any of our teams due to us not following any regulations. We didn’t have any COVID outbreaks because of something we weren’t doing. So I think as long as we continue to follow the protocols, I think we are going to be ok with having our sports. We have hand sanitizer that everyone needs to use when they come in. Everyone has to get their temperatures taken. Everyone has to answer the COVID questions. I’m hoping they answer them honestly and read them. If anyone in their house is waiting on a test, they should not be there. If they are showing any symptoms at all, everyone needs to just stay home, and they need to do that so that we can do somethings safely, but within COVID range. I think we can give kids the opportunity to somehow participate in some sports.”