Changes to sports at Uni during COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been some minor schedule and other changes to Uni High sports this school year. But according to athletic director Tim Bicknell, students seem to be “taking these changes in stride” and there have been “zero issues with compliance” when it comes to mitigation efforts implemented in the sports.

All sports this year are open to Uni High students, except for Subbie Girls Basketball, which had a lack of interest and is canceled this year. 

This year, there was a successful season for both the Cross Country team in the Fall and Girls Swimming. The season for girls and boys high school basketball will stay the same- starting in November and ending in February. However, there are major schedule changes to some sports, including the addition of another season (Summer). 

According to the IHSA, these are the new seasons this year for some Uni High Sports:

Boys Soccer, which is usually a Fall sport, will begin its season on February 15th, and end on May 1st.

Boys & Girls Track and Field, as well as Boys Tennis and Girls Soccer, will start on April 19th, and end on June 26th.

Other changes to sports this year include a practice only basketball season for boys so far, and individualized practices instead of group ones. 

Mitigation efforts to try and stop the spread of the virus are commonplace now in every sport. 

Bicknell elaborated on the mitigation efforts from the successful Cross Country season, “there was no state meet this year. And instead of having 40 teams at a meet, there were 3. Some meets ran 3 teams on the hour, every hour. Along with this, there was mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand sanitizer everywhere.”

Senior Cross Country and Basketball player Charlotte Ebel shared her experience with these efforts in Cross Country, saying that she had a pretty positive experience with Cross Country this year. 

“We were able to make it through the season safely,” She said, “We met outside for practices, wore masks the whole time unless we were 6 feet apart, and every day we had a temperature check along with questioning about if we had symptoms or contact with anyone with COVID-19.”

However, because of these efforts, Ebel also feels like there were some negative parts of her experience as well, “It was nerve-racking at meets, they tried to cut down on the numbers but there was still lots of people. And there was no way to actually test Uni students for COVID-19 at the beginning because the U of I was still figuring out the system.”

She also points out Cross Country this year seemed to have lost the bonding element that made the team so appealing to students in the first place. “Usually the night before Saturday morning meets, we would have a ‘pasta party’ at someone’s house and carbo-load before the big meet.” But because of the regulations, these were not possible this year. 

Ebel also mentions other bonding activities that Cross Country runners would normally do, like trips to Curtis Orchard that were severely cut in attendance because of fear of catching the disease. 

But she mentions how she gives a lot of credit to the coaches this year, especially Coach Rachel, who tried their absolute hardest to make the season a good one.

On the other hand, both the Boys and Girls Basketball season was changed extensively this year. 

According to Ebel, girls still practiced at Kenney, but “they tested twice a week and wore masks the whole time they were inside.” And she said that Dr. Majerus told them they could not scrimmage, but there ended up being physical contact anyway. 

“Our season only lasted 4 days,” She said, pointing out how now, there were no practices together as a team, and there were no games to play. 

However, she believes that because of the close contact nature of the sport, IHSA was right to implement these changes.

For many seniors, like Ebel, their senior season of sports is very important to them, and reactions to the COVID-19 changes were mixed.

For Senior Basketball player and track runner Adit Kalsotra, he thinks this season of basketball “is terrible” because they can’t play any games, but he still shows up to every practice because of his dedication to the sport.

Senior Soccer player Daniel Matatov elaborated more on his experience with Soccer practice in the late Summer/ Fall, “We practiced three times a week in the Fall, and wore masks.” He did not see much of a difference, except that they mostly scrimmaged and did not do as many drills.