Welcome back to high school sports, but with a dose of caution
Welcome back to high school sports, version 2.0, for 2021.
While we're as excited as anyone to see student-athletes hitting the fields and courts for their first practices Monday, we can't help but start out this fall season with an abundance of caution.
The coronavirus is still very much with us. Make no mistake, if the infection rate and case numbers continue to climb, a return to the mitigations imposed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health during the March to June "season" won't be far behind.
Already, any athletes competing or training indoors, as well as coaches, are required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. When girls volleyball and girls swimming competition begins the week of Aug. 23, spectators, officials -- anyone in the building -- will be required to wear a mask as well.
If that's all we have to deal with, we'll count our blessings.
This is not to start the season with a negative attitude but simply to state the facts.
And to prepare for possible changes as we go.
"At this point I think we're so used to things constantly changing, I think we'll have to accept some changes again if they happen," said Prospect's boys athletic director and head football coach Dan DeBoeuf. "It was interesting going through summer with no masks and now we're back to wearing masks.
"But, it's important for these athletes to compete."
There's no one I know, and I would hope everyone I don't know, who wouldn't agree with DeBoeuf's last statement. And compete they will, following the rules as coaches and school officials keep a close watch.
Every AD is hoping against hope the pandemic doesn't create the schedule changes it did throughout the 20 weeks of the spring and summer seasons. As teams and athletes had to go through quarantines, games were canceled and rescheduled more than anytime during a wetter than wet spring.
"The hardest part of the last year was the constant changing of schedules," DeBoeuf said. "That's something none of want to go through again.
"We just have to go one day, one week, one season at a time."
The message here: Follow the rules. Mask up if you're inside and don't be afraid to even if you're outside. To the student-athletes, we say make good choices. Surround yourselves with others who are making good choices. Yes, have fun, but do so in a manner that recognizes the privilege you have to be competing in uncertain times.
"I hope the one thing everyone takes away from all of this is that sometimes we take for granted what we have," DeBoeuf said. "We don't want it taken away again."
The best way to make sure that doesn't happen is for all of us to do our part in helping squash this virus so someday we truly can return to normal.