As the new year settles in, and teams continue to see the effects of the pandemic taking its toll on sports, the winter season lingers in the air. Over a month has passed since IHSA announced the suspension of winter sports, and coaches have been forced to adapt to the new guidelines and restrictions.
Each sport is being impacted differently by the IHSA guidelines and precautions that have been put in place. Coaches are currently pushing through the unknown and continuing to try and conduct practices, since the postponement is still in effect.
“We have switched to virtual workouts throughout the week, which obviously is not ideal, but I think it is the best option we have,” Girls’ Gymnastics Head Coach Phillip Gilmer said.
After four in-person practices, the team turned to Zoom as an alternative. Now to keep connected and stay in shape, they attend three Zoom meetings a week for a team workout. Outside of Zoom, many of the girls use GroupMe to stay in touch and go to private gyms on the days they do not work out as a team.
Another winter sport deeply affected by COVID-19 is the high-risk sport of basketball, as it is both an indoor and hands-on game.
“The pandemic has clearly impacted basketball,” Boys’ Basketball Head Coach Isiah Davis said. “We were not allowed to have summer league or camp, and now we currently are not in season.”
As in-person practices are also non-existent for this winter sport, the team uses Zoom and Remind to keep in contact during the dividing pandemic, just as the girls’ gymnastics team does. Many players on the team have resorted to playing club soccer and even on out-of-state basketball teams to keep fit on their terms, but nothing can distract from the disappointment the players currently feel.
“The players have been as upbeat as possible, but for so many this is difficult, especially for seniors who have waited for this moment for a long time,” Davis said. “This has just been hard on everyone.”
Now more than ever, coaches are starting to acknowledge the mental impact the pandemic has had on sports players that use their sport as an outlet.
“I have focused more on the mental side of the team than anything,” Gilmer said. “I really want them to feel like a family, even if we are not altogether in person.”
Although some sports like gymnastics have resorted to a completely online option for practices, baseball has continued to occur in-person via socially distanced practices.
“Practice organization now includes grouping and distancing players,” Boys’ Baseball Head Coach Steve Colombe said. “In baseball, instead of using our dugout, we have had players spread [themselves out] down the foul lines. Players also remain in the same groups throughout practice.”
Since baseball is not scheduled to return until the set date of April 19, Colombe is allowing his players to focus on school, with only one Zoom meeting each month to keep the team connected. Until then, spring sports hold their breath to see what the IHSA has planned for them.
Colombe, on a more positive note, looks at the pandemic as a life lesson for his players.
“We are challenging players to not take anything for granted,” Colombe said. “In life, you never know what can be taken away from you without your control. Appreciate things while you have them.”
Although the future of both winter and spring sports remains uncertain, each team is moving forward and adjusting to the guidelines and restrictions. With the possibility of winter and spring sports overlapping, the IHSA is planning on making some decisions on Jan. 13 about the timeline of highschool sports.
“We have been using the phrase ‘No Matter What’ with players,” Colombe said. “We will be ready for whatever comes our way, no matter what, no matter when our season takes place, and no matter what other obstacles we face as a group. We will get through it together.”