By Isabelle Ravanas, Staff Writer
COVID-induced speculation over how the Chicago Public Schools sports seasons would look like this school year has been present ever since lockdown began. As the spring 2020 sports season was practically cut with some teams being only able to attend a few practices, many felt robbed of a quintessential high school extracurricular. However, as some teams such as boys golf and girls cross country had their season, some such as boys soccer and basketball had to comply with IHSA regulations and postpone their seasons. So, when CPS announced that sports practice could resume on Feb. 11, excitement and apprehension took over the athletic community. However, apprehension triumphed over excitement as many teams experienced a sharp decrease in athletes trying out. About 140 players made up Payton’s boys soccer teams last season; however, this season there are 58. Boys’ soccer coach, Mr. Escobar said that there were simply less people who tried out.
The tryout process itself was a vast change from previous seasons. Basketball player Jaiden Lulla ‘23 said that students were given less than a week’s notice that the season was being held. On top of that, he said an extra layer of confusion was added as the tryout dates kept on being changed. Soccer player Sean Richards ‘23 noticed that tryouts were also “a lot shorter” and that there were “less people showing up.” Some sports had to implement stricter rules for team recruitment as to limit every player’s amount of possible contact with COVID; this caught some students off guard. Tryouts were also to follow CPS guidelines of having players sanitize their hands, wear masks, practice social distancing, and get their temperature checked before starting.
Games have had fewer changes. Basketball games now have “mask breaks” every quarter where athletes can get a chance to take a break from their face coverings. Besides that, teams now have to comply with the rudimentary social distancing, hand sanitizing, temperature checking, and masking up that many throughout the country have had to comply with over the past year. The total number of games have been cut down with many state championships completely cancelled.
All the changes thus far have been more or less accepted by the school community. However, the most controversial change is a CPS statement about choosing sports. As dozens of sports and 3 seasons are piled into a couple months, students who were used to playing a sport a season now have to pick only one according to CPS regulations. Mr. Escobar said CPS is the only school district throughout the state that has created such a restriction.
In a statement on their website, IHSA commented, “we knew there would be obstacles no matter what we decided. Whether those hurdles included overlapping seasons for multi-sport athletes, equity between sports, preseason acclimatization guidelines, the prioritization of spring sports, facility conflicts for schools.” IHSA allowed for student athletes to participate in multiple sports at once while CPS didn’t. The fact that high schoolers had to choose between some of their main extracurriculars has caused frustration in the community; a sophomore on the volleyball team commented that she was worried she would have to miss out on volleyball because the lacrosse season overlapped with it by 20 days. Richards was also worried that his soccer season would have to be cut short as the volleyball season overlaps by about two weeks.
Individually, a volleyball player also said that she hopes that they will continue to record the games so that more families can see them at home even after quarantine. Mr. Escobar says that he’s “happy that overall hygiene [has] improved” and that “players and coaches will now be more aware” of hygiene during the season. So, however uncomfortable the season has been, there have been some positive changes that could be reflected in the years to come.