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CPS rules against conducting IHSA-permitted off-season practices

High school teams all around the state held practices this week. The Illinois High School Association allowed off-season sports 20 days of practice with their coaches, starting on Monday.

Phillips football coach Troy McAllister talks to Terryon Thrower during a practice last September.
Phillips football coach Troy McAllister talks to Terryon Thrower during a practice last September.
Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

High school teams all around the state held practices this week. The Illinois High School Association allowed off-season sports 20 days of practice with their coaches, starting on Monday. Twitter was full of masked basketball and football teams finally getting some action in.

Chicago Public Schools teams were told to wait and see. Then on Thursday evening the announcement came: CPS will not allow any practices.

“With the support of the Office of Student Health and Wellness, we made this decision with the health, safety and welfare of our student-athletes and coaches in mind,” CPS Sports Director David Rosengard wrote in an email.

Phillips football coach Troy McAllister was planning to start his team’s 20 days on Sept. 22.

“We had set our schedule,” McAllister said. “We wanted to give everyone a chance to get used to remote learning.

“It’s obviously really disappointing. When you look at trying to give young men something to do to be productive and to help them stay focused academically, even just the social component, it is really, really disappointing.”

CPS has consistently been more cautious during COVID-19 than the IHSA and the Illinois Department of Health.

“They are just doing what they think is best for the students and athletes,” Simeon basketball coach Robert Smith said. “I understand it. Our seniors and other students are going to be hurt by it but it is better safe than sorry. They have taken this stance ever since it started. We’ve been behind on everything. I kind of get it. I have a teenage daughter that is playing high school basketball and I’m concerned about her safety.”

Taft basketball coach Jason Tucker was planning on conducting most of his practices outside.

“Obviously with this whole thing we want to play it safe and do things the right way,” Tucker said. “The number one priority should always be our kids’ health but it is disappointing. Talking to my kids I know they need this right now.”

Tucker is concerned the CPS will cancel the basketball season entirely.

“This is heartbreaking,” Tucker said. “I was willing to get together with the team just for their mental health. I think that is something that is not being mentioned enough in all of this. And now I won’t be surprised if there is some movement with transfers to the suburbs. This makes it sounds like there just won’t be a season.”

It certainly seems possible that CPS won’t be willing to host indoor sporting events in two months, when basketball is scheduled to begin.

Football won’t start until mid-February, so coaches like McAllister mainly have to worry about the competition getting an advantage.

“Teams not too far away are practicing and about to get into pads and we are stuck not having any contact with our young men at all,” McAllister said. “Obviously they are prioritizing safety, which you can’t disagree with. But it is frustrating and disappointing.”