The fateful day of March 13 was an unexpected turning point for all District 204 students. That Friday would be the first of roughly 150 days without high school sports. Spring teams were hit the hardest because of the confusion and the mass amount of rumors that spread. One rumor that did spread around was the possibility of a season during the summer months. The rumor eventually was shut down after IHSA confirmed there would be no sports for the remainder of the school year.
The exponential rise in COVID-19 cases that hit Illinois shut down the state. It was only a matter of time before a student-athlete was going to be diagnosed with the virus, but there was still not much known about COVID-19. The uncertainty of the disease mixed with the increasing numbers was an unforeseen disaster.
“No one really understood much about COVID-19,” Athletic Director Matthew Fehrmann said. ”It would have been tough to allow some sports without guidelines or professional opinion to be shared on how to safely operate. I have never been a part of a pandemic before, but what I can say is that you really do not want to rush into things without fully understanding what or how to handle it or how to move forward.”
After springtime concluded, the opportunity of sports for next year was the main focus for the IHSA. The IHSA board was eager to get some sort of season in place before the start of the new school year. Executive Director Craig Anderson and the rest of the IHSA Board set off on a mission to do just that.
On Wednesday, July 29, Anderson announced that the board had released a schedule for all the seasons and that the plan was sent to the Illinois Department of Health for evaluation. The seasons were originally divided up into the usual fall, spring, winter, and summer, but the biggest change came from the length of the seasons. The lack of opponents Metea could face grew from years past. This came to be because the Mustangs and other surrounding schools were only allowed to play schools that were close in proximity.
The athletes and coaches that participated in the fall season were the trailblazers in the new sets of shortened seasons. Pritzker’s mask mandate and the several rules and regulations that he added changed the dynamic of the team.
“The main thing [that was] affected was the team environment,” Junior Sydney Lewis said. “We were allowed to ride the bus to practice or meets. We were not allowed to have tournaments and give each other high fives and fist bumps like normal.”
The original schedule came to a screeching halt when on Nov. 17, right before games would start for the winter season, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that sports would be stuck on another pause after the recent increase in cases. Anderson was prepared for this moment; his scheduling back in July was purposely made to be changed in case there was a need to do so.
“This plan, like nearly every aspect of our current lives, remains fluid,” Anderson said. “Changes may come, and if they do, we will be agile while putting safety and students first. It was important that we provide a framework today for our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and officials to begin preparing for the 2020-21 school year.”
Anderson still had one problem to face before he and the board could get a new schedule passed. Pritzker was stern on no sports at the time, but that did not fly with IHSA. In the weeks to follow, both sides would keep their stance on the issue, but Pritzker prevailed in the end. Winter sports was a loss for a few months, and it was unknown when we would see any sort of action.
A special board meeting was held by IHSA to determine a schedule that athletes could follow on Jan. 27. The board was able to complete their goal but with a major twist. All sports remaining must take part in an extended season that will stretch the remainder of the school year. Most teams will not be able to participate in state due to the new rules, but sports like cheerleading are an exception.
Currently, there has been a very little setback in the atypical schedule. Many teams at Metea have had the chance to play while others are waiting for their turn.