With the Fenwick High School boys track and Oak Park and River Forest High School boys track and volleyball teams ending their seasons this weekend, the 2020-21 high school sports year has come to a close.
Needless to say, it was a year unlike any other. While the COVID-19 pandemic impacted many aspects of everyday life, it adversely affected high school athletics in Illinois.
In the fall, there was a limited number of sports that could be played — cross-country, golf, girls swimming and diving, and girls tennis. None included state final competitions as schools were restricted to playing within their conferences.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker moved basketball and other winter sports to the spring, and with the pandemic worsening, there was serious doubts about the spring season occurring as well.
But in early February, the IHSA announced there would be a six-week basketball season, citing the implementations of new COVID-19 vaccines. Then football, which didn’t take place in the fall, was moved to March along with girls volleyball and boys soccer. And the traditional spring sports like baseball and softball were moved to late April and early May.
The result of this maneuvering was condensed seasons for every sport. Moreover, COVID-19 protocols required very limited attendance as in most cases, only the parents of the home teams were admitted. Also, the players, coaches, officials, fans, and media were all required to wear masks at all times, even during competition.
It was a challenging year, and I hope we never have to experience another similar time again. While I am glad Pritzker eventually let the kids play, the fact that all the seasons were abbreviated made it difficult to get all sports covered.
I apologize to the teams that were overlooked. That wasn’t the intention, and I plan to run stories soon about some of them. But, I also believe I did the best I could over these last three months, and I will only become a better reporter for this experience.
I believe that the return of sports is a sign that we are on the road to normalcy. I think people took them for granted and appreciate them more than ever before now that they know they can be taken away because of circumstances beyond control.
I’m optimistic the high school sports season will be back to normal this August. I want to see Friday Night Lights experiences for football at OPRF and Fenwick, and I yearn to see more crosstown athletic contests among Fenwick, OPRF and Trinity.
Then, when winter comes, let’s get back into the school gyms to watch exciting basketball and wrestling action.
I know I can’t wait for August, and I hope you feel the same.