Uncertain future awaits CPS athletes

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Young’s football players know this much: they’re 3-0 for the first time since 2009 and they will be practicing Friday and Saturday.

Other than that, all bets are off.

The Dolphins walked off the field at Stagg Stadium Thursday afternoon after beating Hope 22-8, right into an uncertain future they are not at all happy about. Like everyone else with a stake in Chicago’s public schools — students, teachers, parents, support staff — they are waiting to see if the teachers and school board can avert a strike before Monday’s deadline.

“It’s pretty bad,” said Young junior Peter Casey, who had a big game Thursday with a touchdown on a fumble recovery. “We don’t like dealing with uncertainty. It’s the worst thing for a team.”

And this is a situation with enough unknowns to make you want to just stop thinking about it. No. 1, obviously, is whether the strike will happen. If it does, Public League players and coaches on Monday will turn their attention to Bloomington, where the Illinois High School

Association board of directors is scheduled to consider a CPS request to waive the by-law that bans teams from practicing or playing during a strike.

There is a Plan B for the Dolphins should the walkout happen and the IHSA reaffirms the no-play rule.

“If the strike happens, the seniors will [organize] practices,” said Dolphins senior quarterback Casey Ford, who threw for a pair of touchdowns Thursday. “We will have some coordinated workouts.”

But that wouldn’t be the same as if coach Tim Franken and his staff were running the practices. And there wouldn’t be any games or any highlight video for the Young seniors with aspirations of playing in college to send out to recruiters.

Franken is also a teacher, so he could either be walking a picket line or drafting a practice plan on Monday. He doesn’t like being in limbo any more than his players.

“I know all the teachers are pretty much Democratic,” Franken said. “If they watched President Clinton [Wednesday] night … telling people [they’ve] got to cooperate — hopefully both sides can learn from that and get it done.

“I don’t really consider myself a political person, but it is what it is. … I’m hoping something will happen at the 11th hour and they’ll at least get something on the table that will make us look at it and take a vote on it.”

As tough as it is for Young right now, it might be worse for Hope. The Eagles (0-3) took 14 players on the road for a 55-0 Week 1 loss to Peoria Central and had just a couple more available Thursday. Hope has some impact players, like Paul and Isaiah Williams, the pass-and-catch duo who teamed up for the Eagles’ lone touchdown Thursday. There just aren’t enough of them.

Like a lot of Public League teams in a lot of fall sports, Hope football has a hard time getting athletes to practice before classes begin the day after Labor Day. “We lost the first three games in large part because of attrition,” Hope coach Jason Burns said. “I don’t mean to take anything away, the other teams played well and did what they had to do to win.

“But obviously we’d be a little more competitive if we had a few more guys.”?Athletes and coaches aren’t the only people with a stake in this game, and maybe they’re not even the ones with the most on the line.

But sports help keep kids engaged in high school and give some of them a path to college. Sports also teach some good life lessons about the virtues of self-discipline, hard work and sacrificing personal success for the collective good.

Those lessons have value, just like what the Young and Hope players learn in history and math class.

The hope here is that, come Monday, class will be in session and the learning will continue — both on and off the field.

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