Last week I wrote about the normalcy that having sports again will provide us. The message this week and moving forward revolves around the word — consistency.
Consistency has been a difficult thing to find amidst a pandemic, whether you’re discussing high school sports or life in general. For a while it seemed like student-athletes might not have an opportunity to play sports in the upcoming school year, but now the IHSA believes a modified schedule could fix that.
It’s impossible to predict what COVID-19 will look like moving forward. As Carbondale Athletic Director Mark Albertini once put it, “We only know this virus at 60 degrees and warmer.” With certain fall sports set to begin next Monday the world will see how much truth there is to what Albertini said.
I’ve remained optimistic throughout this entire pandemic that we would have high school sports again during the 2020-21 school year. The IHSA’s decision to shift high contact sports such as football, girls volleyball, and boys soccer to the spring seems to be in the best interest of the players, but only time will tell.
The spring sports season is scheduled for Feb. 15, which could make for some very chilly football games. I can imagine that kicking a soccer ball on a snow-covered field might seem different at first, but if the kids can adapt then surely adults can too.
Massac County’s Zach Miller might be the busiest man in Metropolis coaching high school and junior high girls volleyball during the spring, and then high school girls track in the summer. Miller balances coaching alongside parenting his four children, which has him ready for sports to return more than anybody.
“From a parents perspective my kids just miss being around their friends,” said Miller. “It’s about getting them back to competing on a team and being a part of something bigger than themselves.”
Miller believes that fans should expect a heated battle between the top schools of the SIRR-Mississippi Conference this spring. Having competition again is what Miller feels might bring back some of that normalcy.
“In this day and age sports is that normalcy for kids,” Miller added. “I don’t know what Plan B would be for these kids without sports, but it’s important for them to express themselves athletically, physically and mentally.”
Joining the SIRR-Mississippi this season is Mike Layne at Pinckneyville and Nathan Emrick at Carterville. While interviewing Layne for a separate story during the week, I was able to understand why many refer to him as a coaching legend since leading Murphysboro to 11 regional titles and one sectional title in 20 seasons with the Lady Red Devils.
Layne discussed what it will be like coaching at a new school during the spring since accepting an assistant coaching job under Ed Allen at SIU last year.
“I coached middle school volleyball for 20 years, so I’m already pretty used to coaching in the spring,” said Layne. “I haven’t met my kids at Pinckneyville yet, but I plan on working around my fall schedule at SIU in order to get them ready for the spring.”
Layne added that the word of the year for his teams is, you guessed it — consistency.
I began thinking about what word I would use to describe this year. Then I began thinking about what words other people might use. I feel like the answer differs for everyone depending on what situations they find themselves in most days.
Fortunate, would be my word of choice. The feeling of having sports again has made a huge impact on my attitude compared to when quarantine began. It almost doesn’t feel real for me because I never would have expected the Chicago Cubs starting rotation to have the lowest ERA in the Majors through 11 games.
It’s little moments like watching Devin Booker sink a game-winning shot for the Phoenix Suns or staying up past 11 to watch Stephen Piscotty hit a walk-off grand slam for the Oakland Athletics. Sports have always been about cheering on my favorite teams and players, but more recently I’ve just enjoyed having them back.
I expect the same feeling once high school sports start back up.
Braden Fogal covers prep sports for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at 618-351-5118 or at email@example.com.
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