This is a moment in time when the Illinois high school athletic community should be praising the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) left and right.
But instead of doing that, some coaches and a few additional bozos just continue to miss the boat with their lack of education and negativity as leaders.
I have a message for those folks: Please exit right and take a hike. Until you control your selfish emotions, your services are no longer needed for the health and mental well-being of student athletes.
What the IHSA did today was something that deserves a standing ovation. A moment when it could’ve just thrown in the towel, the organization that oversees high school extra-curricular activities in Illinois did whatever it could to help spring student athletes.
While the NCAA can grant another year of eligibility to its student athletes impacted this spring, that’s something the IHSA just can’t do.
Instead of saying three strikes and you’re out to 1,000s of innocent spring student athletes, the IHSA made the spring season a best-of-five series. Yes, the student athletes lost the first two games when the spring season was postponed in March, and the state tournaments were officially cancelled today because the IHSA simply ran out of time to run quality events for all sports.
It did, however, leave the door wide open for spring student athletes to practice, play and create some lifelong memories with their teammates and families. So many education leaders (and parents) missed this today, and that’s why you need to take a deep breath, calm the emotions and read to educate yourselves.
While the IHSA did fumble its communication rollout of the statewide announcement, all the information below was right there.
The IHSA noted that when public health officials deem it OK for student athletes to take the field, it will allow for spring contests to take place. School districts and conferences control the regular season. Schools around the state have been looking at possible conference tournaments, a rivalry game or two and a senior night.
The IHSA also said it will waive the by-law that bars student athletes from competing with their club and high school teams at the same time, because contests will most likely run deep into June, July and maybe the first week of August.
This is a unique time in the world and the history of the IHSA. This is where it’s doing what’s right and putting kids first with possible options to obtain some lifelong memories – especially for seniors.
I can already hear some people saying: “But the IHSA said the summer was cancelled, too.”
One of my favorite phrases a coach once said to me: Don’t let the truth get in the way of the facts.
Let’s talk facts: The IHSA suspended summer contact days until public health officials deem it OK to get back on the field.
Why did the IHSA do that? Summer contact days start when the school year for a school officially ends.
Don’t believe me? Go talk to any Chicago Public Schools (CPS) boys basketball coach whose team took part in the Riverside-Brookfield Summer Shootout last June.
I promise you they know the rule now.
Non-CPS schools tend to finish the first week in May, which would allow baseball, basketball, football and basically every other team to run camps or practice right away. Until public health officials deem it OK, you can’t have that.
Now you have the facts on why summer contact days were suspended – not cancelled.
No one knows what is going to happen May 1, June 1, July 1 or August 1. If you do, please tell me because guess what – you don’t. Neither does any school leader, media member, politcian or the know-it-all on your block who you can’t stand.
We can be positive or negative, and coaches know what a negative attitude does on and off the field.
Trust me, I get it – it’s an emotional time. Routines are out of whack, adjustments to remote learning and no one knows for sure what is going on with graduation, prom or summer vacations.
The sun came up today – and lord willing – it will come up tomorrow for all of us, too.
As the good coaches know, control what you can right now and that’s the mental part. IHSA executive director Craig Anderson told coaches and school leaders just that in all-school email back in late March.
He noted this was the time for coaches to show true leadership. Craig was spot-on with that message.
Despite all the negativity and the folks who will say this is false hope, just remember: This is not the time to lose your composure. Let those naysayers, who can’t adjust to the sandbox being shook, motivate you as you work your ass off enhancing your physical fitness and skills when no one is looking.
This is the time to stay focused and show why you’re a true champion in the game of life.
Bio on columnist: Joe Trost is an award-winning writer: STAR Newspapers, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and ESPN.com. Locally, he is a three-time statewide IHSSCA Media Person of the Year; founder of the PepsiCo Showdown, the largest high school sports series in the U.S.; and board member for Buddy’s HELPERS, which engages and educates student athletes about Making A Difference On AND Off The Field. He also helped launch Making A Difference (M.A.D) Shuttle, which provides transportation options to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) student athletes and teams for games and free transportation to-and-from community service projects.