As we move toward the middle of November, the pressing question — at least as far as Illinois high school athletics goes — has been: Will there be boys and girls basketball seasons?
The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association released the results of a survey of the state’s basketball coaches on Monday. Nearly 800 coaches responded to the survey, which collected data on the use of contact days [the 20 days the IHSA allowed coaches with their teams], if they felt the season should start [practices Nov. 16, games Nov. 30], and if their schools would allow them to start on time.
The survey revealed 51% did use summer contact days, 95% were in favor of starting on time and 81% felt their schools would allow them to begin a season.
There is also the question as to how coaches are dealing with talking to their respective teams about the uncertainty of the upcoming season. The Times asked a number of area coaches their thoughts on the issues at hand.
Beau Doty, Streator boys
"In the summer we had three weeks where we brought the the kids in once we had the clearance to do so. We couldn't do anything contact-wise, but we did a lot of skill development and shooting. The coaching staff put together a quarantine workout packet or Google spreadsheet so the kids could also work on things at home and record the results. We wanted to in some way to create competition for the kids. We just started what we are calling our training camp last Thursday to take advantage of the contact days we have, and it been very competitive. It has been great to get back in the gym.
"The first thing I said to the group last Thursday was the importance of staying positive and being open-minded about things. I had seen something on social media that really spoke to me, and it said you should always be an optimistic person, because pessimistic people are always disappointed twice. It might be cliche, but we just have to do what we can do today within the parameters we've been given.
"We have a schedule in place with 21 or 22 games, and a practice schedule in place starting Nov. 16, so we are planning every day like play them and use them. There is still a lot of uncertainty, but we are going to prepare like we would any other season."
Mark Cooper, Ottawa boys
"We are in the process right now of using our 20 contact days this fall in preparation of hopefully having a season. We have been really working on skill work as far as ball-handling and shooting, while also installing what we are going to be doing offensively. We haven't done any defensive work, but the contact days have allowed us to go at a reasonable pace to increase our skill levels to offensively be ready to go on the first day of official practice.
"We haven't talked about [the uncertainty] a lot, but it's the elephant in the room at each program. We have just tried to get ourselves ready for what is hopefully around the corner. Hopefully we get a little more clarity moving forward so we can start working on that more.
"I've been consistent all the way with this. I don't have any expertise in the medical field as far as the virus, but I will do what they tell me to do to keep everyone safe. If the IDPH says we can have a season but you have to do this, or the the season is going to be delayed, we will follow what they tell us."
Mitch Neally, Fieldcrest girls
"We are just trying to embrace every opportunity we get together. During the summer we met a couple times a week, and I credit our district for doing a great job of getting things lined up for that. Here in October, we plan on using around 14 of our allowed contact days — kind of like a preseason camp.
"For me, it's about not only the physical health, but the mental health of our athletes. I feel I need to be there for them, and also it's important for them to be there for each other. I've told the girls, like the old saying goes, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. We just want to make our lemonade each and every day. This isn't the ideal situation, but we just want to make the best of it."
Curt Alsvig, Somonauk boys
"We are in the process of using our contact days with golf getting over early, but we probably won't use them all. We've had the weight room open, and our athletes were and are using that, plus we had skill sessions via Zoom and a Google classroom for player homework.
"We have talked about preparing like we are going to play until someone tells us we are not. It's been a little tough, because we haven't had the kids back in-person at the high school this year, so there has been some disconnect, but they have adapted very well.
"If they tell me I have to wear a spacesuit to coach my team, I'll do it."
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