DANVILLE — With a decision on the IHSA set for next week, the decision for the IESA came down on Friday.
After a special meeting of the IESA board of directors on Thursday, the IESA decided to cancel the regular season and state series for boys and girls golf, baseball, softball and boys and girls cross-country.
Girls softball practice was scheduled for Monday and baseball and cross-country season were set to start practice on Aug. 3.
While middle-school athletics directors like North Ridge’s Drew O’Connell, Schlarman’s Eric Crist and Bismarck-Henning’s Michael Grant knew it would happen, the fact that the season was not being moved was a surprise.
“We definitely expected it. I had to ask the softball and baseball coach to put together some practice guidelines and even in doing that put so much thought into it, so it w tough to tell them about today.
“I had an idea it was coming because I was following what the college conferences are doing and sports in general,” Christ said. “It was expected and you hoped it didn’t come to fruition, but it was tough to hear.”
“I knew it was going to come, but it was still a shock,” Grant said. “In the past month, we were working on schedules, getting the umpires ,filling in games and then it hit us and all that work is for nothing.”
Every middle school AD in the state had to explain to kids and parents that there will be no fall season even though some kids are playing summer baseball and soccer.
“When I first hear the news, it was gut-wrenching because these kids have been waiting for months to start playing again and to break the news to them that we have to wave everything off was pretty challenging,” Crist said. “I think it is confusing for them because some of them have been playing travel baseball and softball and all of a sudden, they are told when the school season starts, they will be no sports. That is hard to explain to them.
“The hardest part was calling our softball coach this morning and he has an eighth grader on the team and I can hear that he was bummed out,” Grant said. “I thought about when I was an eighth-grader and my time in youth sports and nothing like this ever happened.”
O’Connell sees this as an opportunity for coaches and players to get better.
“I think the state want the high schools to do their sports and if they move anything else back, it is going to put a strain on getting officials, especially if football moves to spring,” O’Connell said. “I thought they did a good job of putting things in perspective. It is sad they they don’t play in a sport, but we are looking at 12-14 year-olds with their high school careers ahead of them. The bigger picture is they can still work on their craft.
“In my position, I am not going to be super-negative about it. I think it will give all of our coaches a chance to get better and make a better program. We have good coaches in North Ridge and we want to do everything for our kids, so there are things we can work at when things get back to normal.”
Even with the announcement, the local AD’s are not done exhausting all situations for possible action this fall.
“That was the first question that I always got from coaches and I really don’t know,” Grant said. “You have to get with higher-up administrators about how the guidelines will go. We will definitely follow the rules and you can’t break them in a situation like this. If there is something that we can do for them, we will do anything we could.”
“The announcement puts us back, but I will do everything I can to give them an opportunity,” Crist said.”Whether if we can find a way to play a game or two and it doesn’t have to be a season, but if there is a way that we could be approved by the Vermilion County Health Department to play and with just another team, I am for it as long as we can do it safely. We will play the safe route in every way we can, but we want to give them an opportunity.”
“I am happy with just our conference play and no fans in stands. I think everyone would go for that,” O’Connell said. “If there is any room to have any games, we would like to do that, follow the guidelines and make that happen. These are going to be lost years for these kids, so to have anything that makes them part of a team can help them entering high school.”
The board will make a decision on girls basketball in August as girls basketball practice was scheduled to start on Aug. 31.
Hopefully the girls basketball season is not cancelled and we hope volleyball and boys basketball is not either,” Grant said. “I got my fingers crossed that we can get them started.”
“We have been in contact with all the coaches, but we also thought it was out of our hands,” O’Connell said. “We have to be positive in this situation and I think that positivity will help a lot in getting these kids ready for high school.”