Coronavirus

With no games in near future, local teams try to figure out best path forward

Huntley's Marley Reicher works on her swing Tuesday evening during the defending Class 4A state champion Red Raiders' practice at the school.
Huntley's Marley Reicher works on her swing Tuesday evening during the defending Class 4A state champion Red Raiders' practice at the school.

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Huntley baseball coach Andy Jakubowski is not quite sure what to tell his players Saturday, their final practice until at least the end of spring break March 29.

He would love to have his team work out together and take responsibility through players-only workouts that would help the players bond.

But the whole idea of suspending school, practices and games because of the COVID-19 pandemic is to keep people away from one another as much as possible.

“I want them to be together as a team, but they have to do it individually,” Jakubowski said. “We can’t go out and tell our players to have captains-led practices because we can’t have a group of people together.”

This will be the strangest athletic spring ever. Professional leagues have suspended their seasons, the NCAA canceled its winter postseason tournaments and entire spring seasons, and the IHSA canceled the rest of its postseason series Thursday, meaning no champions will be crowned this year in any of the four classes for boys basketball.

In the interest of people’s safety, and in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, many aspects of life are at a standstill. Spring sports coaches and athletes hold hope that their seasons might be abbreviated, but not wiped out completely.

“Thirty-five games would be a major stretch,” Jakubowski said. “Maybe we can get 20 to 25 games, try to play our conference schedule, get as much playing time in as we can. The kids can learn about bouncing back and overcoming adversity. Just try to be the best we can when we come back.”

Richmond-Burton girls soccer coach Casey Decaluwe could have practiced two more days but decided to shut down early, in part because of his own previous health condition.

“We had a couple of sick girls and didn’t want to take chances,” Decaluwe said. “I thought it wasn’t worth it; if we’re not playing games [for a while], we shouldn’t be together. We told them to [work on skills] and keep working on their endurance. It’s uncharted territory for everybody.”

Decaluwe, who teaches physical education, has been in remission from hairy cell leukemia since 2015. He has enjoyed great health since, but his doctor feared his immune system might be susceptible, so Decaluwe missed some school this week.

On Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker ordered that all schools in Illinois be closed from Tuesday through March 30. All local schools already had planned to go with E-learning for students next week before going on spring break March 21.

Most local schools have suspended activities at least until after spring break. Marengo softball coach Dwain Nance will take advantage of one more practice after school Monday before the Indians take their break.

“I still have to ask our administration some questions about what the players can do here,” Nance said. “I’m going to find out what our limitations are. Can the players have mini-workouts here [on the school grounds]?”

By IHSA rules, players cannot work out with their travel teams during their high school season, even while games and practices are suspended.

Nance hopes having the suspension to start the season can turn into a positive.

“Luckily it’s suspension and not cancellation of our season,” Nance said. “The winter teams have it the worst. They’re on the verge of winning a championship. I think I’d be more upset if I was a team that could have had a state trophy. Hopefully these are just suspensions and we can resume. Cancellation [of the whole season] would be a real bummer.”

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