Calling all Huskies ... past, present and future

Opinion: Columns

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Ross Lissuzzo

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I think it's fair to say that most of us miss sports, at least a little.

We miss playing sports. We miss coaching sports. We miss having our kids play sports. We miss watching college sports (think March Madness!) and even professional sports. We miss catching a baseball game on the radio in the car. I actually miss the baseball field dirt on my car floor mats — kind of. I miss playing catch with my kids down the street at the local baseball field. I really miss Wrigley and hearing Pat and Ron calling the Cubs games.

There are undoubtedly more important things than sports today as the world grapples with a brutal health pandemic that is taking lives swiftly, too soon and unjustly. However, sports allow for distractions, not only in pandemics but also during "normal" times. Sports in high school foster friendships, school spirit, community, and provide the foundation for healthy lifestyles later in life.

Things will get back to a new normal eventually and when they do, we should make sure that the new normal looks the best it can for OPRF High School.

The Imagine OPRF High School project is a herculean effort by our board, administration and volunteer community members. All of these folks put in a ton of time and effort and take precious time away from their own families to help, and thus they all deserve our thanks. However, one of the outcomes of the project is that half of the tennis courts will be used for a construction staging area to house trailers and truck parking. That leaves only four courts, surrounded by trailers, which then does not allow the Tennis program to host any home matches for approximately two years. Additionally, it will move practices off campus and possibly discourage kids to get involved in the sport altogether.

The Tennis program has two seasons: boys play in the spring and girls play in the fall. The current plan has the trailers sitting on the courts for both of those seasons for almost two years with no options provided to move the equipment to fields that might not be in-season as they move through the construction process.

Tennis has traditionally been a no-cut sport and has hundreds of students come out for the teams. A no-cut high school sport is rare in today's amped-up youth sports world. To place trailers in this area, while possibly convenient, does not put the student first but places the needs of the construction company ahead of our own student athletes.

Our OPRF community talks a big game about placing students first and looking into possible disproportionate impacts of policies — we actually hire folks to look into such impacts. We say it should apply to all decisions, and athletics and extracurricular activities are a big part of the OPRF experience. Think back to your own youth and recall some of your best memories — sports, playing games on your home turf, clubs, bands and hanging out with your friends on campus after such events may come to mind.

A courageous student athlete spoke up at an open OPRF Imagine community update meeting to see if the school would at least reconsider and look at the plan to see if other staging areas could be used, or at least rotated. This would allow the tennis team not to be disproportionately impacted over the duration of the project. She was told in a recorded public meeting "I'm not going to lie, it stinks for you guys." Additionally, a large group of tennis families presented the same argument and respectfully asked, at a board meeting, if the school would at least consider a more equitable solution. Not hearing anything to date, I asked the school last week and the response I received was that they will be sticking to the original plan. I pressed pretty hard via email, some might think too hard, for some clarity on the process after such requests are made. The communication not only went silent but the school suggested OPRF has said what they were going to say on the topic and no more.

So I am hoping our community can come together and help. You don't have to like tennis to have an opinion on this one. You actually don't have to like sports that much to help. This could relate to any club, music program or extracurricular activity at the school who might someday want to ask for a better solution to help the longevity of their program. No one is suggesting that the Imagine process purposely set out to negatively impact any particular group of students, or that Tennis is more or less important than any other activity. However, here we are and what are we going to do about it now?

So if you are the slightest bit bored at home and are in front of a screen (not sure why that would be the case?!) and you care to get involved in the OPRF community, here is your chance and it's easy. If you would like to see our school at least explore different solutions for staging trailers than the tennis courts exclusively for two years, please feel free to copy and paste the email addresses below and the message and send it to the board, the Imagine team lead, and the superintendent. For those who are better with social media, have at it.;

Dear OPRF High School: Please ask the construction company to provide a few more staging options for the construction trailers and parking. Subsequently, have the school review them again, and present the findings to the community in hopes we can find a better solution with less impact to any one team or club. Thanks and Go Huskies!

Ross Lissuzzo is an Oak Park resident.

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