Schuck's Clipboard

Putting spring sports in crosshairs again makes no sense

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 12, 2020 12:01 am

As speculation, theories and opinions continue to swirl, keep this question in mind: Who stands to suffer the most if athletic organizations start flipping seasons?

That seems to be an oft overlooked part of these discussions.

The Illinois High School Association board of directors plans to meet this month -- no date or time has been set -- in order to sort out and consider all options related to the fall sports schedule. Among the topics they expect to discuss are shortening seasons, delaying seasons, flipping seasons and canceling the fall season all together.

Of those four options, flipping seasons seems to be the one generating the most intrigue.

It has been suggested fall sports be flipped with spring sports since it's easier for athletes playing baseball and softball or participating in track and field to socially distance themselves and avoid physical contact.

Such a conversation is being driven by football, which tends to be a centerpiece for many communities and a cash generator for athletic departments. Without the gate receipts and concession stand sales occurring on game nights, funding for the entire athletic department takes a huge hit.

So pushing football off until spring, when health officials and school administrators hope to have a better grasp of how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, seems to be a frugal move.

But has anybody asked the spring sports athletes their thoughts?

They were actively preparing to begin their seasons in March when the pandemic took hold, extracurricular activities were shut down and schools transitioned to online learning. Their seasons were pulled out from under them with no recourse.

Their season couldn't be delayed, shortened or flipped. It was canceled.

Is it fair to put them in a potentially demoralizing situation again?

Currently, there is no guarantee any sports will be played this fall because there is no vaccine for the coronavirus and the spread seems to be rising again. And if physical contact among athletes remains a concern, spring sports aren't as socially distant as you might think.

Should baseball and softball eliminate tag plays? Do you eliminate restarts in girls soccer so there won't be any battles over possession? Do runners space themselves out in every other lane during a track meet?

The expectation spring sports are better suited for this pandemic climate doesn't make sense.

Also consider there continues to be small spikes and waves of positive tests locally and nationally. If you flip seasons, see a spike or spread in the coronavirus and seasons have to be shut down, now spring sports athletes will have lost two consecutive seasons.

Can anyone honestly sat that is remotely fair?

In a radio interview Friday, IHSA executive director Craig Anderson reiterated his belief athletics and other activities are an important part of the educational process and offer students the opportunity to express themselves in a variety of ways.

Taking that away from any student would be detrimental.

So don't threaten to hinder spring sports athletes for the second time in less than a year. Don't put their prospects, their passions and their dreams on hold yet again.