'We really don't want this season taken away from us': Athletes, coaches wait for IHSA decision
There's no question just how much Denin Limouris wants to play football for Glenbard West this fall.
"We really don't want this season taken away from us," the Hilltoppers senior said. "We want to play and we want to go for that state championship."
At this point, however, he just wants an answer from the IHSA. Will football and other fall sports play as planned? Will the fall season be a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic like the spring season was? Or will there be some middle way through?
That answer is expected to come Wednesday, when the IHSA board of directors is due to meet. It can't come soon enough for so many athletes, coaches and parents around Illinois.
"We talk about it a lot," said Limouris, who recently committed to play college football at Iowa. "Everyone is just dying to play right now. It's really frustrating."
Limouris' coach, Chad Hetlet, has noticed the toll the wait has taken on his players.
"The uncertainty, the anxiety is as tough as what the answer may be sometimes because you're kind of sitting around waiting," the Glenbard West football coach said.
Hetlet compared this situation to waiting for test results from a doctor.
"So I think there's a lot of anxiety that's built up with kids, these high school kids that are hoping to have a season," Hetlet said. "And along with coaches too. Because the coaches care about the kids so much, it's not just about the game itself. It's about the mental health aspect of these kids being able to do the physical activities that they've been training for and the socialization that comes along with all the sports."
The socialization is a very big part of sports. It's about having fun and making memories to last a lifetime. Sports also can help teenagers deal with the stress of this unusually stressful time.
And then there's the reality that sports can help high schoolers get to the college of their choice. If they don't play, they worry they won't be seen by college coaches, either in person or on video. For some it's about athletic scholarships, for others it's a way into a school with extremely competitive admissions.
"A lot of our kids use football," Hetlet said. "Traditionally we send a lot of our kids to high academic schools with a big amount going to the Ivies. But (Washington University in St. Louis) and Chicago and other high-academic institutions as well."
Football isn't the only sport's athletes on pins and needles. Boys soccer, girls volleyball, boys and girls golf, boys and girls cross country, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving also are fall sports in Illinois, at least in normal times.
"We're being informative as much as I can and just letting them know that they're working on decisions," Naperville North boys soccer coach Jim Konrad said. "A lot of things are going into the decisions. There's a number of possible scenarios that may play out. I've asked them to train as if the season is going to be as it normally is, but there's a chance that it won't be. I'm trying to keep them in the loop as much as possible, but no one knows any information really."
Unlike football, many soccer players play with private clubs outside of their high school season. Their clubs are waiting to fill the void if there is no fall season this year.
"Their main thing is they want to know that soccer is going to continue one way or another and that we'll have a high school season at some point," Konrad said.
Hopefully, after a summer of uncertainty, they will get the answers they crave Wednesday.
"We're just waiting on that decision," Limouris said. "We're just waiting. We'd like to get a definitive answer soon, but I mean, we're just keeping all hope."