Editorial: IHSA’s unfair treatment

Our Position: The IHSA’s decision to delay the spring sport season until summer is unfair towards the spring sport athletes that will be forced to choose between their high school and club sport season. 

Due to COVID-19, the fall and winter high school sports have been pushed back to winter and spring of 2021, which causes the spring sports to be delayed until summer with the official end date being June 26. Instead of modifying the schedule so that all three sport seasons could be played in winter or spring, the IHSA decided to push the spring season back to summer, robbing many spring athletes who play club sports of two consecutive seasons. 

Holding the spring sports in the summer will force many spring sport athletes to make the difficult decision to forego their high school season to play with their club team. The spring sports missed out on the 2019-2020 season entirely because of COVID-19, and now they are at risk of losing out again this year. Since the IHSA does not allow athletes to participate in club and high school sports simultaneously, many athletes will have to leave their high school team because travel sports offer recruiting opportunities, whereas high school does not. 

Not only will the club sport athletes suffer, but the high school teams will as well. Forcing many top athletes to leave their high school team will create a deficit in the level of play for high school sports. High school coaches will be unable to replace the missing athletes and will have a hard time competing at a competitive level. Many coaches will have to work around the missing athletes, while some coaches will lose a full team of athletes and will not be able to finish off the season. 

Even if the IHSA chooses to allow spring sport athletes to play club and high school sports at the same time, there will still be problems, as many athletes will have to choose travel over high school. Many travel programs play tournaments over the weekend and hold practices on the weekdays. The overlap will increase the likelihood of injuries and decrease the level of performance. Imagine being a pitcher in softball or baseball and having to pitch five games on the weekend for the club team and then having to pitch high school games during the week. Why should some spring sport athletes be expected to play anywhere from 5-10 games a week? 

Rather than pushing the spring sport season back, the IHSA should allow spring sports to start in April and run through May.  The typical high school spring sport season starts in March and runs until the championship which is during the first week of June. The spring season should be allowed to hold tryouts and start practicing during the last two weeks of March so that the teams can start playing games in April. Starting in April lets the spring sports start at the same time as their normal season, and it ensures that every spring sport athlete gets to have a season this year.

According to a member on the IHSA board of directors, the modified schedule avoids overlap of sport seasons to ensure that multi-sport athletes have the ability to play in all their sports. The IHSA made a schedule that caters to the needs of multi-sport athletes; however, very few high school students are multi-sport athletes, and even fewer collegiate athletes play multi-sports. Why is the IHSA so focused on multi-sport athletes?  

Nowadays, specialization in a sport is common for athletes that want to play at a high level with the goal of playing in college. Instead of the IHSA taking into account the specialized athletes, they focus their attention on the few multi-sport athletes. The IHSA could decide that spring sports who already lost one season should be allowed to start in the spring even if it overlaps with another sport season. With a pandemic going on, it would not be unreasonable to ask multi-sport athletes to participate in one sport or to have coaches make special accommodations for those few.

Students play sports because they have a love and respect for the game. Students play sports because of the experiences and connections they make throughout the years. Students play sports because they have dreams of playing in college. The IHSA is making it harder for these students to do this. Impacting thousands of athletes, the IHSA’s decisions should be made thoughtfully with the goal of giving every athlete the chance to play this year in the best way possible.

Staff vote: 19-7