Mustang athletic community remains frustrated with winter sports delay


Graphic by Olivia Gaziano

With all the sports being pushed back this season. Athletes can only hope to start playing soon.

Grace Davidson, Sports Reporter

The pandemic has taken its toll on this year’s sports season. The fall season involved strict safety restrictions such as social distancing and masks, but as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in DuPage, winter sports will be hit with a delayed season under the guidance of the IHSA and Governor J.B. Pritzker. The board plans to review the situation again in mid-December. 

“I am saddened by the announcement, but understand the situation,” Athletic Director Matt Fehrmann said. “Ultimately, it is the safety of the athletes, coaches, and community that is in [our] best interest. I am hopeful the people that run our state, health departments, and local governing bodies are doing the right thing.”

Pritzker announced the postponement of the Illinois High School Association’s student athlete winter sports on Nov. 17. On the same day, the IHSA Executive Director, Craig Anderson, acknowledged the governor’s words while also expressing optimism towards the possibility of a vaccine. The IHSA board met two days later and discussed the delay of winter sports and put a pause on all IHSA winter sports, along with conditioning, weight training, and open gyms in schools. 

Despite the guidelines from IHSA and Pritzker, Metea athletes are feeling the impact of delayed sports as well. Student athletes, including seniors Abby Malartsik, Amelia Szczesny, and junior Kenny Siwicki are saddened and frustrated by the delay of winter sports. Malartsik is on the co-op girls’ gymnastics team, Szczesny plays for the girls’ basketball team, and Siwicki is on the boys’ wrestling team this year. 

“Athletes can be very negatively affected by this decision because a lot of athletes use their sports as their outlets,” Szczesny said. 

The delay of sports has taken its emotional toll on many student-athletes who use sports as a way to vent emotions and make lasting friendships.

“I was emotionally shattered, and so were the other two seniors on my team,” Malartsik said. “The other girls were also saddened to hear about the postponement, but us seniors were hit hard.”

Despite varying views on the steps being implemented by the IHSA and governor Pritzker, everyone involved in the matter tries to maintain some form of optimism regarding the future of winter sports. For now, Malartsik and Siwicki have been connecting with their teammates and coaches through GroupMe chats and Zoom calls and will be continuing to train as they did during the offseason. 

Meanwhile, coaches are trying to similarly adjust to the new changes.

“Currently, athletes and coaches are allowed [to have] one-on-one training indoors or groups of 10 outdoors,” Fehrmann said. “With the weather being poor, we are waiting for alternative options, as the one-on-one is not ideal. Athletes are expected to continue to train, fuel their body, stay on top of their grades, get a good night’s rest, and mentally prepare for changes.”

Despite the recent recommendations from IHSA and Pritzker, Szczesny, Malartsik, and Siwicki provide opposing opinions on the situation that is directly impacting their sports careers. 

“I do not necessarily agree or disagree with the decision,” Szczesny said. “I get the reasoning behind the delay with the spike in cases, but I know there are a lot of measures that can be taken to keep students safe if they play.”

While Szczesny seems to have come to terms with the delay, Siwicki has a stronger opinion regarding the actions being taken by the IHSA and governor Pritzker for the delay of winter sports. 

Student athletes like Malartsik and Siwicki do not understand or agree with the actions being taken by the IHSA and governor Pritzker regarding the postponement of winter sports. 

“I would probably tell Pritzker that he’s playing games with a lot of people’s futures and is completely screwing over a lot of people,” Siwicki said. 

Alongside the frustrations of students, parents such as Jon Malartsik, Abby’s father, are also developing their own opinions about the actions taken by IHSA board directors and J.B. Pritzker.

“Allow sports to proceed with the proper precautions in place,” Jon said. “It is happening all over the country in various states. Make mask-wearing mandatory for athletes, coaches, and spectators. Limit spectators to immediate family, insist on social distancing by all involved, continue the honor system with athletes to self-report health and to stay home if sick. Have procedures in place in case someone tests positive or is in contact with someone positive.”

However, Matt Long, head coach of the boys wrestling team, agrees profoundly with the actions being taken by the IHSA and the governor. 

“[Governor Pritzker] has been one of the few intelligent governors out there, trusting in science, data, and metrics, following IDPH and CDC guidelines, and trying to appeal to our better nature as human beings,” Long said. “Unfortunately, some people dismiss or do not understand science and those people are very difficult to help and keep from hurting others. I would not change a thing. This is not a matter that should have split down political lines. We are talking about people’s lives, especially those marginalized/on the fringe of society, being adversely impacted or ended.”

Considering that these delays are temporary at the moment, the student athletes hope that the winter season starts before springtime to avoid the overlapping of sports. The overlapping of seasons would cause a plethora of unknowns, such as problems surrounding scheduling games and gym time around an added number of sports. However, Fehrman remains positive with an unprecedented athletic season.  

“We thrive when adversity faces us,” Fehrmann said. “We take it head-on, we follow orders, we adapt, we consider ways to maintain communication with our number one concern, our athletes.”

IHSA hopes that with the cooperation of schools, athletes, and coaches, the temporary suspension in winter sports will dissolve. The winter sports delay will also be covered in a regularly scheduled meeting next Monday.