Faculty athletes and fogeys in Illinois are pushing for fall sports activities

MCCOOK – More than 500 parents and athletes gathered in the parking lot of a sports complex in the southwestern suburb of McCook Sunday to pressure Illinois Governor JB Pritzker to allow college sports this fall.

They wore their school sports gear and held signs reading “Bring Back Sports” and “Flip on the Friday Night Lights,” contrary to the governor’s decision to postpone some sports until spring to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Parents and students shared how they missed the normality of exercises and games. They also expressed their anger that neighboring states are allowing sport during the COVID-19 pandemic. Indiana allows high school football. On September 3, Michigan lifted restrictions that allowed the state sports association to resume soccer and other fall sports.

Meanwhile, the parents accused Pritzker of analyzing the potential risks rather than making a decision.

“Why theorize when we can just look at others who had the courage to stand up for the kids and have shown they can do it?” Said parent Dave Ruggles, who closed the rally.

Pritzker’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday. Earlier this summer, the Illinois High School Association, which operates state public sports, announced that high-contact sports would be shifted to spring and summer. Low-contact sports such as tennis and cross-country skiing are still happening this fall, but with a shorter season.

On Friday, the IHSA confirmed that it had sent a letter to the governor asking for authority to decide whether to resume athletics in high school, stating that it would be doing some sports in the fall could bring back if approved, but said no discussions or timetables have been discussed yet.

In an interview with Aurora Beacon News last week, IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said, “We understand that many have a strong desire for college sports to resume on an accelerated schedule, but we continue to respect the fact that our state’s conservative approach has helped Illinois achieve lower COVID-19 positivity rates. “

The fall’s lack of athletics is especially difficult for high school graduates, who often use the summer and fall to showcase their skills to college recruiters, which could affect the scholarship opportunities they have been working towards all their lives.

“My mom always said travel soccer was an investment in my college,” said Kaylie Dahms, a senior soccer player at Plainfield Central High School. Between injuries and COVID-19, she hasn’t had a chance to play a full spring season since year one and had to send her newbies highlight role to college for testing.

She says she is now competing for slots with students from other states who can play.

“Whatever I get, I have to take what’s sad,” said Dahms. “I’ve had a lot of dream schools and top schools and right now they’re saying, ‘Sorry, we can’t do anything.'”

She says schools told her they could hopefully come to her game in January, but said she was hoping to get involved in a school before the end of 2020 and fears that COVID-19 cases will be higher and prevent these visits.

Kaleb Clousing, a senior at Wheaton Warrenville South High School in Wheaton, said he decided last month to get involved with Grand Valley State University in Michigan to play soccer, although there is a possibility he could have more offers this fall would have gotten.

“But without knowing it, I wanted to get involved with Grand Valley because I knew I had that and the opportunity was going and I wanted to take what I had,” he said.

Many students say that they still travel to neighboring states with their private sports teams to play, a welcome piece of normalcy.

While the rally has been billed as a push to return college sports, it also had a political shimmer.

Parents scolded Pritzker for closing schools and sports. Some women collected signatures on a petition to call the governor back. Ruggles, the parent who attended the rally, used his platform to argue that leaders arbitrarily decide when people could congregate during the pandemic.

“We get it,” he said as the crowd cheered. “The virus does not appear to infect protesters, looters and people who hold four-day funerals for political figures. For these problems it is too important to worry about the spread of the virus. But not so much for the upbringing of our children and for things that are important to us. “

But politics wasn’t the problem for the students. They just want time in the field.

“Playing as a team is definitely a pleasure,” said Bryan Grimaldo, senior at Waubonsie Valley. “Train yourself, it’s just lonely. And in all of this, it’s like, “Do I even want to try? Do I even want to play anymore? I have no one to push me to get better. “

Kate McGee covers the training for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation and @McGeeReports.

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