ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — These last ten months have been hard on all high school athletes and coaches. The hardest part has been dealing with the unknown. Two of our local coaches shared with me what it’s been like for them and their athletes.
Normally in Mid-January Joe Murphy would be overseeing his Winnebago boys basketball team coaching the guys up…challenging for a Big Northern Conference Championship. But this winter nothing has been normal.
“I’ve been coaching a long time. I started coaching at the age of 21, 22 and now I’m 68. This is just unusual for me and I’m starting to get bored.”
In mid-January Lena-Winslow football coach Ric Arand would normally be thinking ahead to the fall, but now he’s keeping his fingers crossed that there will be football played in March. It’s difficult dealing with the uncertainty.
“It’s tough. At the end of the day it’s draining.”
Arand says every time there’s a scheduled meeting by the IHSA his football players are glued to the IHSA website and to social media hoping for an updated return-to-play and return-to-practice schedule. Instead the only news has been the same old news that all sports remain paused.
“At the end of the day when they come back with no decision or the Governor’s office and the Illinois Department of Health didn’t enter a Zoom meeting or whatever it’s depressing for them.” said Arand of his football players and all Lena-Winslow athletes.
Both Arand and Murphy are most concerned about their seniors.
“The big thing here I worry about all the time is the seniors,” said Murphy. “We have four seniors back. I think it would be awful if they couldn’t play at some time.”
Two things aggravate Arand. One is that states surrounding Illinois have been able to proceed with high school sports and with AAU sports while Illinois hasn’t.
“You can go an hour west of us right now to Dubuque, Iowa and tonight I’m sure there’s a basketball game that’s going to be (in front of) a packed gym.”
The other thing that annoys Arand is the inability or unwillingness of the IHSA, the Governor and the Illinois Department of Public Health to come together and come up with solutions.
“You’ve got three major entities in the state of Illinois made up of adults, professionals, that can’t communicate with one another. That’s frustrating.”
Maybe high school sports are about to turn a corner and bounce back soon. Whenever they do it won’t be soon enough.
“We can do better,” says Arana., “And it’s proven that we can do better.”
Arand has been one of the more outspoken coaches in the Rockford area when it comes to pushing for the re-start of sports. You can hear my complete interview with him by clicking on the following link.