Spring sports are canceled, but athletics continue

Senior Liliana D’Alesio now trains alone due to social distancing. Even though her spring soccer season was canceled, exercise gives her some much-needed time outdoors. (Photo by Charlotte Geier)

By Tyler Houck & Amalia Laskaris, Sports Editors

The spring sports season across the state of Illinois has now officially been canceled, making the fears of thousands of students since early March a reality. Following the governor’s announcement canceling school for the remainder of the school year, the IHSA board of directors canceled all spring sports state tournaments. 

Although many athletes and coaches feared this result as soon as stay-at-home orders took place in Illinois, a majority of Maine South athletes have continued to train independently whenever possible. 

“To stay in shape, a few times a week I go outside and run around my neighborhood for a few miles,” senior girls’ soccer player Liliana D’Alesio said. “It’s good exercise, and it gives me an excuse to go outside and enjoy the weather.”

Many spring sports teams had informal practices at Maine South after school was closed on March 16, the week before spring break. Junior lacrosse player Alyssa Nilles has been practicing lacrosse every day, along with other drills.  

“To stay physically in shape, I have been biking, running, walking, and playing lacrosse,” Nilles said. “Many girls on my team would often get together to practice on Wilson Field. This was a way for us to see each other and practice lacrosse at the same time.”

Some teams pushed the limits of the social distancing orders by gathering small and large groups from their teams. The athletes often met at the turf of Wilson Field to play.

“When the field was available to use, we had one ‘unofficial’ practice as a team where we had a bunch of girls show up to play,” D’Alesio said. 

When principal Dr. Ben Collins learned of the groups gathering on school grounds and violating social distancing orders, he needed to take action. 

“With all of the stuff that everyone is trying to do, the whole reason we are in this mess is because people don’t want to follow the rules,” Dr. Collins said. “The longer people don’t follow the rules, the harder it is going to be for us to get out of this.”

Although Maine South security and Park Ridge police have removed trespassers on multiple occasions, the school is still having trouble keeping people of all ages off of the property.

“When you have to tell kids that they can’t do their sports season because of people doing things like this, that’s what really stinks,” Dr. Collins said.

Students’ craving for competition and connection has augmented their disappointment over the loss of their final high school season.

“It’s devastating and infuriating not being able to play this last season with my team,” senior girls’ lacrosse player Augustina Parisi said. 

Some teams were expecting highly successful seasons before the sports were canceled.

“With all of our returning seniors and the addition of great juniors, I know our team could have had a great year,” junior baseball player Timmy O’Brien said.

Seniors that are not continuing to play in college have been especially hit hard by not getting to play the last competitive games of their careers.

“Being a high school athlete, you look forward to your senior season from the moment you start playing freshman year,” Parisi said. “We got robbed, and there’s nothing that can be done to fix it. It’s totally out of anyone’s control and it’s heartbreaking.”

The virus has taken its toll on athletes and coaches alike. Coaches have understood the feelings of their athletes and feel crushed themselves.

“There are a lot of ‘what could have beens’ about our season,”  head track coach Jason Kacprowski said. “Early on in the quarantine, I definitely let my mind drift off thinking about these, but I finally came to the realization that contemplating these ‘what could have beens’ in perpetuity isn’t constructive.” 

Many teams have met through Google Meets and Zoom to stay in contact as a whole group. There have also been some coaches finding creative ways to stay connected with players in a time where physical contact has been restricted.

“Every week, Coach Paiser will send out a challenge for each group to compete and see who wins in the end,” junior softball player Rachel Hoffman said. “Along with that we also have a program Flipgrid account where every few days a new challenge or question is sent out and players, as well as coaches, can share things such as hidden talents or favorite movie lines.”

Baseball coach Mr. Brian Lorenz has even extended an invitation to some of his players to compete virtually.

“Some of our coaches have even been playing Xbox with some of my teammates,” O’Brien said. 

The IHSA also suspended summer contact days until further notice, which impacts summer sports camps. The opportunity for fall and winter sports camps are not finalized, but the district has said they will not hold camps unless the statewide stay-at-home order is lifted first. 

“At this point, I would be shocked if anybody could hold a summer camp,” Dr. Collins said. “I mean, name a sport that you don’t have to touch anybody, it’s just the nature of most sports.”

The Hawkettes have already decided to move their tryouts for next year to a virtual platform this summer. Girls who are trying out will receive a video with instruction on how to perform their dance; then, they are required to submit a video of them performing the dance as their tryout.

“For many, including myself, this experience is very new and might be intimidating, especially for incoming freshmen,” junior Anna Wozniakowski said. “I believe that although this may seem limiting, things such as recording audition tapes as many times as needed, learning the tryout routine at your own pace and being in a home environment can reduce the inevitable stress of a tryout setting.”

The Maine South basketball program is also offering the first ever co-ed Virtual Hawk Basketball Camp that will be hosted in the summer. The camp will start on June 8 and run for three weeks, each week involving a new aspect of the game. 

“I was so close to hitting my refund button and having my first June off,” boys’ basketball Coach Tony Lavorato said. “We organized this because we wanted to create something that is unique, has never been seen or done before, and I wanted it to be special.”

The first week invites players to join a live Zoom call for coaches to work with players on conditioning and ball-handling, while the second week follows with players posting videos of workouts and training they have been assigned on social media; for the last week of camp, athletes will use an app to follow daily workouts to post and share on the app for coaches and other players to enjoy and watch. Each week offers activities that are supervised by NBA Skills coaches and other training programs. 

With the camp being co-ed, it now offers players a larger opportunity to reconnect with peers during time in quarantine.

“We feel that our three week camp allows us to create one big family with our coaches, returning players, and campers,” Coach Lavorato said. “Our campers look up to our players, and I want to continue that.”

Coach Lavorato hopes that this virtual camp will encourage players to continue participating in the basketball program in the future.

“The number one goal for kids who experience the virtual camp is [for them] to feel inspired to go back to the live camp next year,” Coach Lavorato said.

Despite the significant changes to spring and summer athletics as a result of the coronavirus, Dr. Collins remains optimistic about sports for the next school year. By sticking to protocols, he believes there should be a positive outlook for the fall. 

“The goal should be to get healthier faster by staying home now, so we can bring back sports in the fall,” Dr. Collins said.

He also had a message for devastated seniors who were left without a season.

“The last thing you want to ever do is look back and say I wish I would have done something different,” Dr. Collins said. “So, if this gives some people pause to think about what the most important things are in their life, I hope this provides an opportunity to spend time with important people and do the things that are most important.”

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