College Sports and COVID-19

With winter and spring sports seasons cancelled, athletes and students adjust to the commitment process

With the coronavirus leaving all Illinois schools empty for the remainder of the school year, worries and uncertainties linger in the mind of athletes. Among these worries are lost sports seasons and college recruitment. Illinois governor JB Pritzker canceled the 2019-2020 academic year, along with the IHSA officially ending all spring sport seasons and state tournaments. 

The announcements have left coaches and athletes struggling to figure out what the next move is, since their school year seasons canceled. These cancellations will have significant effects on the future of sports at the high school and college levels. 

Additionally, depending on what health experts suggest, the cancellations may continue deeper into 2020 and continue affecting sports seasons. The rate that different states open and loosen restrictions will also affect how national leagues and tournaments will move forward. 

One of the biggest grey areas in terms of adjustments to the consequences of the pandemic is the college commitment and recruitment process. Since many states are in quarantine, college scouts have no way of watching players they may have interest in. 

Stevenson Athletic Director Trisha Betthauser has been sending updates to Stevenson athletes as they come. She, like many others, is uncertain of what colleges are going to do about the cancellations, and how universities plan to adjust. 

“I’ve been intrigued to watch how colleges are being creative in this, and I’m sure that will continue to evolve over time,” Betthauser said. 

Since the announcement, colleges are still struggling to figure out how to continue their scouting and recruitment process remotely without new footage of spring athletes or games to watch. To deal with the stress caused by colleges, among other things, coaches must also find new ways to help their players while keeping team spirit alive. 

Stevenson varsity baseball head coach Nicholas Skala had high expectations for his team this season. They made it through tryouts and multiple practices before the cancellation was announced just days before their first game. 

“We were all under the impression that it was just going to be two weeks,” Skala said, “As those two weeks went on, everything got worse and we started to have a little less hope that we would get a game in together.” 

Spring sport coaches including Skala have been holding Zoom calls with players, making sure that morale and motivation stays up; once quarantine is over, teams want to practice as soon as possible. Even in all the chaos, he has found some positive goals for his players.

“Players should keep a good mindset and enjoy this time their family,” Skala said, “Hopefully we’ve seen the worst and we’re moving forward to greener pastures.”

Skala has been doing what he can to help players in the college process. He has them put together footage that they have, or new footage that they may film alone, to send off to colleges.  

Just like the coaches, players have been affected by the cancellations. Winter sports teams that qualified for state tournaments and playoffs, such as hockey and boys basketball, were left without those tournaments, and spring athletes ended up with no seasons. 

Stevenson senior basketball player John Ittounas lost the end of his season, like many other winter and spring athletes. The varsity team was days away from a playoff game at Mundelein, a team they had beaten by one point a few weeks earlier. 

“It was sad because we didn’t get to finish out the season the way we wanted,” Ittounas said. “But we were fortunate enough to be able to play through our regular season, where the spring athletes had theirs cancelled.”

Outside of his sports season, Ittounas’s college plans were impacted, as he couldn’t visit all the campuses he wanted to. Most of his visits were scheduled for after the season, and many colleges had closed their campuses by then. Despite the changes, he still committed to the University of Wisconsin Whitewater, posting the announcement on his Instagram page on April 20. 

“The only advice I have to athletes in the commitment process is to just keep their heads up and keep working hard,” Ittounas said. “They just need to follow their hearts to where they think is the best fit for them to continue their sport.”