Last spring, sports seasons were suddenly suspended, devastating and shocking many student athletes. Although more expected, student athletes of winter sports now face a similar disappointment as the pool will remain still, the courts quiet, and the mats rolled away.
On Tuesday, November 17, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) suspended sports indefinitely beginning on Friday, November 20.
Although more prepared, varsity athletes still felt disheartened as hopes for their seasons were put on hold.
“The suspension of basketball was disappointing but seemed inevitable due to the many delays,” said junior Kyra Hatch, a varsity basketball player. “I was really hoping to improve this season and play with my friends again, and I was also looking forward to being on varsity.”
Freshmen looking forward to their first winter athletic seasons were similarly let down. The suspension left many with little time to adjust to their new teams.
“We basically just started our season,” said freshman Emerson Burda, a member of the swim team. “I personally don’t like that the IHSA suspended our season.”
Most student athletes share a similar negative view toward losing an indefinite amount of their winter seasons for various, solid reasons: it is unfair, disappointing, and prolongs the uncertainty of how winter sports will proceed. However, the recent suspension of winter sports has raised a major question: Is the decision justified? Do the health risks of COVID outweigh the health benefits of sports?
Some students agree with the IHSA’s decision. However, most student-athletes struggle to fully support the avoidance of COVID at the expense of the sports which also maintain health.
“I think their decision is justified to an extent,” said Hatch. “I understand the risks of COVID and sympathize for those who are affected by it; however, I think the suspension of winter sports is going to have a bad effect on athletes’ mental health and even school work.”
Counselors also share this concern.
“Being active and staying socially connected with other students has been proven to have a positive impact on mental health,” said counselor Ms. Claudia Carone. “It’s a huge stress relief and escape for kids to be active and do something they enjoy.”
Understanding the importance of maintaining mental health, counselors believe there should be some middle ground of allowing sports to continue safely.
“There’s different precautions we can take—and have been taking—like being socially distant, keeping your masks on, sanitizing objects,” said Ms. Carone. “I think it’s important to be cautious but still be able to have those activities for students.”
However, while sports remain suspended, students are encouraged to find creative ways to stay active and connected with other students.
“Join a club or organization,” said Ms. Carone. “Team up with peers to do Zoom workouts. Being creative and staying active is important to keeping spirits up.”
Student athletes, despite multiple setbacks, work to keep their spirits up and remain positive.
“A suspension is not yet a cancellation,” said Hatch. “I really hope that a season is possible in the future.”