A Hiatus on Hoops

As Pritzker moves Illinois back to Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions, Stevenson’s basketball season takes temporary pause.


Instead of heated games on the court with her teammates by her side and the roars of cheering crowds, Varsity basketball player Sophie Lichtenstein ’21 dribbles a basketball on her driveway. With nothing but a swoosh to commend the free-throw shot she had just made, Lichtenstein continues to prepare even as her last season hangs in the air with uncertainty.

After weeks of rising tensions and coronavirus cases as Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois High School Sports Association (IHSA) continued to release conflicting statements regarding the status of the upcoming high school basketball season and fate of other “high-risk” winter sports, Pritzker has issued a definitive statement. On Nov. 17, Pritzker announced that Illinois would move back into Tier 3 of their Coronavirus Mitigation Plan, putting the entire winter sports season on pause until next year, after much deliberation with the IHSA.

Although the IHSA had previously invited both the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Governor to attend a board meeting in hopes of reconciliation and greater transparency in communication, both invited parties chose to decline the offer. After announcing Illinois’ return to Phase 3, Pritzker publicly addressed the concern regarding winter sports amidst the new restrictions.

“As you saw today with the Tier 3 mitigations, we are obviously asking people not to have youth sports operating in any significant fashion, so I think that is probably moot at this point,” Pritzker stated.

The call to put all winter sports on hold has arrived with a whole new set of challenges and sentiments. For Stevenson, taking a cautious approach moving forward was a matter of concern out of the safety for both coaches and players.

“This clash has put everyone in a tough spot administrators, coaches, players and anyone who associates with basketball,” Stevenson’s head boys basketball coach Patrick Ambrose said. “There are a lot of emotions; we want to play, but everyone takes health very seriously.”

After being labeled as a “high-risk” sport, high school basketball teams had been limited to having no-contact practices and training only. In light of such restrictive measures, many players have had to manage their mixed emotions regarding the uncertainty of their season.

“Many young people, they see this coronavirus and this situation [being] really, really troubling for them because it’s shaken their world and kind of restricted their options for their situations,” Ambrose said. “It’s frustrating.”  

The cancellations have brought up questions of when and how exactly winter sports will be resumed later in the year. The uncertainty surrounding how the pushbacks will affect spring and summer sports, as well as students who play multiple sports throughout the year, is yet to be addressed. 

However, despite the various downfalls, Stevenson’s basketball players have still managed to find ways to continue their training and progress with their future goals. Although the pandemic has thrown a wrench in the traditional recruiting process for athletes, those looking to be recruited have taken the opportunity to connect and build relationships with college coaches through zoom meetings and interactions.

Other players like Lichtenstein have also been focused on self-improvement through daily practice, as well as various exercises from circuit training to using weights and resistance bands at home in order to prepare for the potential season.

“Despite not having access to a gym and not being able to practice with my team, I am now finding myself in the best condition of my life strength-wise because I’ve had so much time to really focus on my health, nutrition, and training,” Lichtenstein said. 

Stevenson basketball teams have also found ways to connect with each other and build new relationships through regular team Zoom meetings, online trivia nights and even a “Virtual Girls Basketball Camp” where seniors conducted workouts over Zoom and led dress-up days as well as weekly challenges for members of all levels and ages. Through their creative methods, they have managed to have some sense of normalcy amidst the chaos. 

“This year has been difficult, and I think we can all agree on that,” Lichtenstein said. “I learned that it’s okay to feel discouraged and upset, because these times are truly unpredictable and scary. But, staying optimistic is something that I can take away from this pandemic.”

Even with the confusion centered around basketball and winter sports as a whole, students have managed to keep their spirits up through perseverance, dedication and a positive outlook on the situation. While frustrations and anguish still exist amongst teams, staying optimistic has been something that has been stressed by Lichtenstein and her fellow players. 

“I can sit here and feel sorry for myself, or I can accept the fact that this pandemic is happening and all I can control is my attitude and how I will respond to adversity,” Lichtenstein said. “We will play together again, we will get through this, and we will come out stronger.”