Normally, this time of year would mark the beginning of basketball season. As cooler weather moves everyone indoors, the excitement of East basketball games almost makes the Midwest winter worth it.
This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything — especially for high school sports. Back in July, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) came out with their plan for high school sports amid the pandemic. They planned each sport for the fall, winter, spring, or summer seasons, with many sports (such as football and soccer) shifted to begin later than usual. This plan was based on the Illinois Department of Public Health’s classifications of each sport as “lower,” “medium,” or “higher” risk.
In July, the IDPH had basketball classified as a medium-risk activity, which meant that it could continue with some modifications. At that point, the IHSA had scheduled the sport during their winter season, which meant that girls and boys basketball would be played across the state from November 16 through February 13.
However, recent contradicting statements from the IDPH, IHSA, and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker have made it unlikely that basketball will begin in November. Pritzker announced on October 27 that winter sports, including basketball, were “on hold,” and would be pushed back to a later season.
The IHSA came out with a separate statement on October 28 that went against the Governor’s ruling — November 16th would signal the start of the Basketball season, as planned, and individual districts could decide whether or not they wanted to play.
Another development came on October 29, when Pritzer officially declared in a press conference that he was “delaying the play of [winter] sports,” specifically in reference to basketball.
The IHSA did not update their own schedule to go along with Pritzker’s statement, though. The organization still plans to begin the season in mid-November, and allow individual districts to “opt-in” or “opt-out” of the winter season. The vast majority of Illinois schools have chosen to opt-out, with only 9% planning to start play in November, according to Rick Armstrong in a November 5 Chicago Tribune article.
At East, many students are unhappy with the developments. On October 30, a group of students held a small protest against the Governor’s decision and the unlikelihood of a November basketball season. Tyler Risberg, an East Junior, was one of the students who organized this event.
Risberg said that they viewed their event to be a success, with a turnout of approximately 50 students. According to Risberg, all of the attendees were socially distanced and wore masks.
Risberg said that the students protested to “show [District 303] that we want to play winter sports and to show the community and government the impact sports have on students.”
The protest was primarily advertised on social media, and Risberg said it “was planned really last minute because of the Governor’s and IHSA’s contradicting announcements about basketball.”
Risberg said the event “was time sensitive because of the uncertainty when the next decision was to be made,” and that it was a group of students who wanted their voices to be considered in decisions that affect them.
Risberg plays football and basketball, but students who played a variety of sports were present at the event. Risberg summed up the main ideas of the students: that sports are critical for the mental health of students.
“[Sports] provide a safe space and a different family to be a part of,” he said. “We are lacking [that] right now because of the Governor’s restrictions … we feel like it is not about sports, and more about politics at this point.”
In Kane County, the number of confirmed COVID cases continues to rise, with 23,179 cases as of November 11, according to the Kane County Health Department. District 303 has not given an official ruling on girls or boys basketball, and whether they will play at all in November.