Athletes Sidelined By District Decision Prohibiting IHSA Contact Period

Isabel Comacchio

With their seasons postponed, Chicago Public School athletes in high-risk sports were hoping to take advantage of the IHSA’s rescheduled fall contact period, but CPS officials aren’t having it.

CPS did not approve the plan put out by the IHSA and the Illinois Department of Public Health that would have permitted 20 practice days September and October for sports not currently in-season.

While many private schools in Chicago and other public school districts throughout Illinois are taking advantage of the rescheduled contact period, some Taft students are feeling left behind.

“Losing these days makes it bad for recruiting because now the colleges can’t see us play,” said senior football player, Remick Ware II, via text.

School administrators were made aware of CPS’s decision regarding the IHSA’s contact period in a memo sent on September 10 from the new CPS Executive Director of Sports Administration, David Rosengard.

“Today, I’m writing to inform you that we will NOT be allowing our student-athletes and coaches to participate in the 20 days of contact for off-season sports programs as outlined by the IHSA’s modified schedule,” said Rosengard in the memo. “With the support of the Office of Student Health and Wellness, we made this decision with the health, safety, and welfare of our student-athletes and coaches in mind.”

In response to the pandemic, the IHSA rescheduled the entire sports calendar, moving low-risk sports to compete in the fall, and higher-risk sports to compete later in the year. Illinois is the only state in the Midwest not playing a traditional fall sports schedule and it can hurt athletes’ chances when it comes to recruiting.

“Not playing right now is definitely hurting our student-athletes chances in recruiting. Players from all over the country are sending college coaches video on a weekly basis and we can’t,” said Taft football coach John Tsarouchas. “There are definitely things our guys can do to help themselves with recruiting right now. It’s not a hopeless situation for them. However, nothing helps you get recruited more than making plays on Friday nights–and we can’t do that right now. It’s unfortunate for the kids, but I understand. These are strange times we’re living in. A lot of them have worked really hard to improve and they were looking forward to showing it.”

CPS did approve participation for athletes in the IHSA’s rescheduled fall sports season. Taft’s Cross country, golf, 16” softball, and girls swimming teams are all currently competing.

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and just to enjoy a little normality especially with the pandemic… As athletes, we need to practice our craft and enjoy the sport with teammates and friends and the pandemic ruined that for high-risk sports. I hope our season was an example for all sports to begin practice and resume play,” said senior 16’’ softball player, Vincent Tran, via text.

Senior David Loch participated in boys golf instead of what was supposed to be football in this fall season.

“I would rather be playing football but since football was a no-go I thought golf would be an awesome way to get out and be competitive… it was brutal not getting those 20 days because those days will give other teams an advantage. I’m just hoping that since we didn’t get those 20 days doesn’t mean CPS won’t let us have a season at all. But the guys on the team have been grinding, so we will be ready,” said Loch, via text.

The loss of contact days left Taft’s competitive dance team to prepare online.

“As of right now we are having google meets practices and working on sideline routines to hopefully begin to perform at basketball/football games when they start. We are also preparing our competition team to begin learning our routine because our season is starting mid November…We haven’t been able to have any in person practices and it’s been hard going from having multiple practices a week for 9 months out of the year to none at all,” said varsity co captain Samantha Ferrari, via email.

Ferrari shares her frustrations about her final season on varsity competitive dance.

“As a senior, it’s been really devastating that our season has been pushed. This experience is something that is so important to me and the thought of not being able to have a season this year is very sad. There are a lot of life long memories that come with being a senior on a team and not having those have been hard not only for us but for most athletes in this pandemic,” said Ferrari, via email.

Details on winter sports are expected to be announced by the IHSA following a board meeting on October 28. CPS has yet to make a decision on the status of winter sports.