CornerKICKS: Naperville Invite’s helping hand set to be bit by IHSA rule

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CornerKICKSJoe Trost, columnist

Full transparency from the start: I created what is now the largest high school sports series in the U.S. – the PepsiCo Showdown.

In my free time, thanks to the volunteer support of high school and former PepsiCo Showdown student athletes, I’ve managed to keep this juggernaut going in soccer and it’s now growing into other sports this fall – including football.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to this week’s topic at hand.

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) will always be an easy target for some throughout Illinois. A person or organization which enforces rules is not going to be liked by everyone, especially by someone who is not getting what they want.

It’s a thankless job at times.

But when it comes to rules, as a number of school leaders have stressed to me year after year, they’re created to serve as guidelines. At the end of the day, common sense has to settle in when moments present themselves.

I truly believe this December, an IHSA member school will help rewrite one IHSA rule – its tournament length rule. Currently, the regular-season tournament length rule stands at 10 consecutive school days for a tournament to start and finish.

When it comes to spring sports alone, weather issues, spring break and other challenges create countless rescheduling challenges. Too many games in a short period is a health and safety issue to start.

Ask any athletic director or athletic trainer.

The goal of the IHSA is to provide student athletes with as many opportunities to create lifelong memories on and off the field. It’s something they do year after year through their state series tournament, which needs 15 consecutive school days to complete in girls soccer in 2019.

Last year, the IHSA made the popular change to its soccer scheduling format from 15 regular-season games and two tournaments; 16 regular-season games and one tournament; or 17 regular-season games and no tournaments to just 25 total games.

The change made total sense and has been well received by all. Many conferences – including the Chicago Public League – have season-ending conference tournaments, which handcuffed coaches from entering more than one regular-season tournament.

The current tournament length rule of 10 consecutive school days is set to create a massive challenge for the long-standing Naperville Invitation this month. The event started its first tournament game on April 9 when Fremd and Loyola played. The tournament game was moved up to accommodate Loyola’s late spring break.

Because of that, the Naperville Invitational will now have to end on Tuesday, April 23 vs. its planned Saturday, April 27 conclusion. If it wasn’t for the Good Friday holiday on April 19, the event would’ve actually been forced to end a day earlier on that Monday.

But let’s be honest here folks – does it really matter when a tournament ends as long as schools don’t play more than 25 regular-season games? Most soccer teams don’t come close to 25 games to begin with.

A little background for the newbies to the IHSA world. The IHSA tournament length rule was actually put in place to stop the McDonald’s Girls Basketball Classic from having a tournament game every single Saturday throughout the season. Essentially, the IHSA was trying to stop season-long tournaments.

It accomplished that, but now this outdated rule will handcuff an event like the Naperville Invitational – even though it was just trying to help Loyola juggle the ever-popular spring break so it could stay in the invite this spring.

It appears that helping hand will be bit by the rule and ruin the full event for all schools involved. And that will negatively impact student athletes.

That’s not good.

COMING SOON: College coaches working for clubs. Stay tuned. It’s going to be a doozy.

REMEMBER THIS NAME: St. Laurence freshman midfielder Jocelyn Ruiz. “Jocelyn has the soccer IQ that many 14-year-olds do not have,” St. Laurence coach Kyle Boekeloo said. “She has the vision, skill and ability to make many things happen on the field for her teammates.”

DID YOU KNOW? Since dropping its season opener to Wauconda 1-0, Crystal Lake Central has won eight straight and outscored those opponents 31-8. Over their last 29 games, the rising program has gone 21-7-1.

CornerKICKS will appear on Sundays. Contact Joe Trost at joetrost@gmail.com.

Bio on columnist: Joe Trost was an award-winning writer at Star Newspapers, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and ESPN.com. Locally, he is a three-time statewide IHSSCA Media Person of the Year and founder of the PepsiCo Showdown, the largest high school sports series in the U.S.

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