Postponement of winter IHSA sports completes calendar year of disruption to athletics

Braeden Schmidt, Correspondent & Staff Photographer

When Naperville District 203 superintendent Dan Bridges announced a pause in the progression of Stage 3 of “Return to Learn” for the remainder of the semester, it was also announced that the district’s winter sports, including basketball and wrestling, would be postponed in accordance with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) announcement late last month.

In late October, the IDPH and Pritzker decided to move many winter sports to “high risk” status, effectively putting them on hold until further notice. The move comes after a significant rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the midwest. But the IHSA announced they would proceed as scheduled with the winter sports season just a day later, directly going against the guidelines laid out by the governor and IDPH. 

After almost a month of warnings of various legal issues and low school participation numbers, the IHSA announced that they would be following the IDPH guidelines and postpone winter sports until further notice.

Basketball, one of the affected sports, was scheduled to start practices on Nov. 16. With the IDPH moving basketball to the “high risk” designation, teams were not allowed to hold contact practices, something they were previously able to do this past fall. A timeframe for the return of basketball practices has not yet been announced. 

The recent rulings on basketball bring the impact of the pandemic on scholastic sports full circle to complete a calendar year’s worth of disruptions, cancellations and disappointments. The IHSA first intervened when it halted the 2020 basketball state series just as the coronavirus pandemic caused widespread state lockdowns on March 13. The Redhawks were just hours away from playing in the boys’ sectional finals. 

Junior James Jopes admits that the news about this season pours salt in a still-open wound from last year’s otherwise successful run. 

“We had our season last year get cut short when we were making a deep playoff run,” Jopes said. “Now we get this whole season canceled. “I just wanted to play with those seniors because I came into Central playing with them and I know them so well.” 

Another sport affected by the decision is wrestling. A sport that has seen a growing surge of success for Naperville Central in recent years, the Redhawks were poised to make a deep run in the DVC and at state, with many returning wrestlers and talented transfers. One of these returning wrestlers is junior Tommy Porter. Unlike many other athletes, Porter chose to focus on self-improvement rather than the disappointment of not having a regularly scheduled season. 

“I understand why the decision was made, as I was kind of anticipating that it would happen,” Porter said. “I was thinking about how I could continue to get work in and stay active while keeping my wrestling skills sharp.”

As of Dec. 11th, details about rescheduled seasons and practice schedules have not been announced, though many expect basketball to return in the spring of 2021, with wrestling to potentially follow next summer.