High School Basketball During Covid-19
By: Amy Boehm
While Wheaton North is incredibly fortunate to have already allowed some fall sports to compete this school year, it makes no guarantees that any other, potentially higher-risk sports will be granted their season. Currently, there is much debate between the IHSA and the governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker, over the risks involved in playing basketball during its usual winter season. On Tuesday, October 27th, Pritzker came out with a statement saying that high school basketball would be put “on hold” for the time being. It is unclear what exactly being “on hold” entails, and shortly after this announcement, the IHSA made their own statement regarding the sport, saying it should continue on as originally planned. However, Pritzker made another announcement on Thursday, October 29th-just two days after his initial statement-saying that basketball must be moved to the spring due to its higher-risk nature. These contradicting views left most school districts confused about future plans for their basketball season, and no further decisions have been made regarding the upcoming winter sport.
In the meantime, students were allowed the same twenty contact days as other sports during the fall to keep up their skills. At practices, athletes wore masks and practiced social distancing in attempts to lessen the risk of spreading COVID-19. When asked if he thought participating in a basketball season would be safe, Noah Froebe, a junior on the boys' basketball team commented: “I think that we could play in the winter, but we would definitely need to wear masks in order to be safe. Personally, I don't enjoy playing basketball in a mask, but if that is what is required to play then I will.” Robbie Bonga also remarked, “ I think we could make [playing basketball] very safe by wearing masks and trying to socially distance, but, like everything, there is always going to be a small risk involved.” Each member of the team is willing to do their part to provide a safe return to the courts whenever possible.
With no clear instructions, the final decision will likely come down to each school district. As for Wheaton North, no new information has been granted to anyone regarding the basketball season. While coaches are doing their best to keep athletes informed of any new changes, all the uncertainty still brings about challenges and confusion for students. If basketball gets moved to the spring, it will lead to conflicts for multi-sport athletes, requiring them to make difficult choices about the sport they want to play. Students at Wheaton North are trying to remain positive and do everything possible to ensure the greatest probability of their season occurring. “We’ve sent many emails to many different people hoping our voice will be heard. Nobody knows what this team really means to us because they aren’t a part of it - Northside Basketball is a special, once in a lifetime program. It is important for us to have a season because it’s more than a sport, it’s a family - that’s what we're known for - and it isn’t right to take that away,” says Claire Hyde, a junior on the team. Although it is difficult, the only thing that can be done now is to continue taking safety precautions to ensure that if there is a winter season, the sport will be allowed to play out to its entirety. Basketball is a core part of many student-athletes' identities, and they are all fiercely hoping for its return.