ROCHELLE — Eric Widick has been head coach of the Lady Hub bowling team for only a few months, but his time running the program has been nothing short of unprecedented.
Widick and the Lady Hubs held their first practice of the 2020-21 season on Monday, Nov. 17. Two days later, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the state would enter Tier 3 COVID-19 mitigations on Friday, Nov. 20, which required the IHSA to temporarily pause all athletic activities. For roughly two months, T-Byrd Lanes was empty of high school competition.
That changed earlier this week, as Rochelle’s bowling teams returned to practice on Tuesday to resume their seasons. With Region 1 currently under Tier 1 mitigations, low-risk winter sports such as bowling can practice immediately, with seven practices required before competitions can begin. The IHSA will release a revised calendar for all sports on Wednesday, Jan. 27.
“I was excited about the prospect of what we were working with,” Widick said. “We were starting to build a rapport with the girls before we shut down, but I had a chance to take those few months and develop a plan for what I need to do with the girls. I designed some drills that we’re going to start implementing, but it’s going to be a work in progress during the season. We may only have seven or eight days to work on things that take three or four weeks to improve.”
Under the revised IDPH All Sports Policy, high school bowling teams in regions under Tier 1 or Phase 4 mitigations can compete in state-level tournaments and matches, which could mean the resumption of a full state series including regional, sectional and state-sanctioned events. Bowling teams in regions under Tier 2 mitigations can practice and compete, but only with schools in the same conference or nonconference schools in the same healthcare region.
“I was hoping and wishing the boys could get back to practicing and get some meets in,” Hub coach Jim Lyles said. “We’ll need to find schools that are still willing to have meets. The boys will practice every day and we’re working with them individually to help them get better. We got better as the year went on last season and we want to send more kids to the sectional meet this year. We have some good bowlers on our team who have the potential to get there.”
Despite two months away from the lanes, Widick and Lyles have maintained contact with their student-athletes through phone calls, group chats and other forms of social media. While the structure and timeline of the IHSA boys and girls bowling seasons remain to be seen, both coaches are optimistic they can make the most of their second chance to compete.
“I talked with the girls on Wednesday about how we’re going to tweak some things with their deliveries,” Widick said. “Those tweaks may be reflected in some of their scores, but as the season moves along, we’re going to get them there. I think our expectations will be a little lower in a sense that we only have so much time together and we won’t have as many meets. But I’m seeing improvements in the few days we’ve been back and they’re working well.”