COVID-19 Calls Timeout

Winter and spring athletics canceled due to COVID-19 breakout

Bayarmaa Bat-erdene, Griffin Brown, and Vaasu Kakuturu

An eerie emptiness surrounded the pool the evening of Thursday, March 12, as JV and varsity boys water polo played games without crowds present. Only a few hours earlier, an announcement had been made that Stevenson would be closing school for a couple of weeks in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Later that week, all spring athletes learned that their seasons would be suspended indefinitely as a result.

Since then, a mandatory closure of all the state’s schools for in-person instruction through the remainder of the school year has been announced by Illinois State Governor J.B. Pritzker, with possible changes pending as information about the virus updates. This decision sparked Craig Anderson, IHSA Executive Director, to cancel all spring high school sports tournaments.

After a lot of hard work and dedication towards athletics, several spring athletes have expressed disappointment that their seasons have ended prematurely. An example is Kilian Weber ’20, a girls’ varsity lacrosse player.

“Obviously it’s unfortunate because once our team met up for the first time, there was an automatic bond that we had this year,” Weber said. “The girls on the team just clicked right away, so it’s sad that we couldn’t see what we could have done on the field.”

Alongside the sudden suspension of all spring sports, a few winter sports that were still in the final stages of their seasons have been impacted. This includes the boys JV hockey Amateur Hockey Association Illinois (AHAI) Final Four and the boys’ varsity basketball IHSA State Series. As it relates to the latter, the Patriots’ boys basketball team was two games away from making their trek to the state competition before the tournament was canceled. 

Adam Wess ’21, a boys varsity basketball player, believed his team didn’t receive the proper warning they needed for the end of their season—especially after trying to rebound from their loss to Evanston last year in the Super-Sectional. Wess has one more year to play with his team, but he felt especially bad for the seniors who had their last high school season cut short. 

“It really hurt us just to know that we put in so much work during the offseason and during the season,” Wess said. “We had morning conditioning and after-school lifts just to be able to have a chance to make a push towards state, so a lot of guys were upset that they didn’t necessarily have that closure that the basketball season should’ve had.”

Evan Ambrose ’21, another boys varsity basketball player, also shares some disappointment that Wess and many other athletes feel. However, he has been coping with the news by talking to his teammates about what they can do to make the best of the situation. 

“Every day in the [boys basketball] group chat, we always text each other how much we miss each other and the great love that we have for the whole season in general,” Ambrose said. “Even though we didn’t get to finish it, we still had some great memories we shared with our guys.”

While the boys’ basketball team learned that they couldn’t proceed to state, boys JV and varsity volleyball were in the final stages of tryouts when news of the cancelation was released. Eric Goolish, the head boys varsity volleyball coach, gave some advice to the players despite the unpredictability of their season ahead.

“Towards the end of tryouts, I just kind of sat back and tried to enjoy watching the guys play,” Goolish said. “I shared with the guys, ‘there’s a lot of distractions right now, but we’re here because we love volleyball, so let’s have fun tonight and let’s not worry about things that are out of our control.’”

With spring sports officially being canceled for the remainder of the school year, it may seem like an opportunity to completely abandon the season. However, Goolish has been hosting Zoom meetings with his team about sports psychology to improve their mentalities. 

“I recently got an email from one of my player’s parents sharing that she is thankful for what we’re doing,” Goolish said. “Twenty minutes before meetings, her son is excited and feels connected to the team; so maybe we’re making a greater impact than I realize.” 

These kinds of virtual get-togethers are aimed to keep players mentally fit and to maintain team morale in light of the unfortunate circumstances. Others have been motivated to take the time to reflect on the driving force behind their involvement in Stevenson athletics in order to remain positive.

“Don’t forget why you play,” Ambrose said. You don’t play for the championships and you don’t play for the big crowds. Keep your family close and keep your teammates close because those are the people that really matter, not the wins or the losses.”