Governor Pritzker’s mitigation orders likely to halt IHSA winter sports

High School Sports

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — It’s another blow for high school athletes and coaches. Governor Pritzker is stepping up COVID-19 mitigation efforts in Illinois starting on Friday. The new restrictions will likely cause all high school winter sports teams to cease practicing, pausing all of winter sports.

On Monday of this week high school bowling teams, boys swim and diving teams, competitive cheerleading and dance squads and some basketball teams were allowed to begin practicing, but that will more than likely stop Friday.

That’s devastating news for many athletes and coaches like the Lena-Winslow boys basketball team. Monday evening the boys varsity basketball team took the court at Le-Win High School for its first practice. It was a little over a week ago they learned that the Board of Education voted and said they could practice and prepare for a November 30th start to their season.

“My first reaction was like, ‘Wow this is actually happening’ because we were one of the first schools, I think we were the first school in the Stateline that did it,” said Le-Win senior Kyle Daughenbaugh. “So I was like, I didn’t think we were going to have it, but our School Board gave it to us.”

“It was kind of like a waiting game for them to vote on it,” said Le-Win junior Luke Benson. “Once it happened we were all like, ‘Let’s do this! Let’s make something out of it.”

But with this latest increase in mitigations it’s more unlikely that the Panthers or any teams will be starting seasons any time soon. The governor has previously recommended that the basketball season be pushed back to the spring, but that would overlap with the football season which is scheduled to run in March and April. That would create a huge dilemma for a small school like Le-Win.

“You look at our program everyone of our kids is a multisport athlete,” said Le-Win head boys basketball coach Kyle Benson. “So when you start pulling them in different directions obviously the quality of play wouldn’t be as good potentially. Just from a safety standpoint would you have enough kids to compete? At a school our size I just don’t see how that’s going to work.”

It would also create a dilemma for coaches who coach multiple sports. Benson is also an assistant coach on the football team, and his son Luke is not only one of the best basketball players at the school, he’s also the starting quarterback.

So how hard would it be on Benson if he had to ultimately choose between sports and pick only one?

“That would be extremely difficult because a lot of the basketball team is on the football team, and for me I’ve played them my whole life. I don’t know what I would do.”

The IHSA is expected to give more guidance to schools on Thursday after it’s next board meeting. The IHSA had invited officials from the governor’s office and from the Illinois Department of Public Health to attend, but they have declined.

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