ROCHELLE — Although the fate of the 2020-21 winter sports season remains in the balance, Rochelle Township High School’s Hub and Lady Hub basketball programs are taking advantage of their fall contact days and preparing as if they’ll be taking the courts this winter.
With the winter season scheduled to start Nov. 16, both teams have been working out at RTHS throughout September and October, utilizing their 20 fall contact days allotted by the Illinois High School Association. Although the two teams have been forced to make adjustments to their normal offseason programs, head coaches Tim Thompson and Tony Rowan said the student-athletes are staying positive and making the most of an unprecedented situation.
“We had contact days throughout the summer and we were able to do some shooting, but we weren’t doing anything contact-related,” Thompson said. “We’ve kept our schedule pretty consistent with what we normally do in the fall as far as open gyms go. We’ve used our contact days this fall to do some skill development, but we haven’t had any full practices because we aren’t exactly sure what’s going to happen, so we’ve been going up and down with open gyms.”
“We really understand that kids need sports, and seeing the kids interact with each other is helpful for their morale and their academics,” Rowan said. “We’re doing some basketball stuff, but we’re also focusing on the second-tier stuff. We’ve given the kids at-home workouts as far as running and weightlifting and we’ve tried keeping the kids as active as possible, whether that’s with or without a basketball. We’re definitely trying to make lemonade out of lemons.”
Basketball has been deemed a medium-risk sport by the Illinois Department of Public Health, meaning student-athletes can conduct intra-squad scrimmages but no competitive play. All medium-risks sports are currently at Level 2 of the IDPH All Sports Policy, with Level 3 allowing for conference and COVID-regional contests only. Low-risks sports such as golf, tennis and cross country are currently competing at Level 3 because they are deemed low-risk by the state.
Players who scrimmage indoors are also required to wear masks under the IHSA Fall Contact Day Guidelines. Masks haven’t been an issue for student-athletes at RTHS, though, and both coaches said players have adjusted to wearing masks while working out on the basketball court.
“I think masks will be here to stay for a while,” Rowan said. “They’re something we can whine about but it won’t change anything. COVID-19 is a serious issue and we’re enforcing the mask policy. I think wearing masks will prepare the girls for whatever comes our way, but it will be important for us to continue having a positive attitude as we move forward.”
“The kids have been great with the masks,” Thompson said. “Wearing masks during the summer and getting the feel for wearing masks helped us. There were some complaints about the masks being uncomfortable during the summer, but the kids have adjusted well and I rarely hear anything from them. We want the kids to be safe, but we’re not going to change the way we play, and so if kids need to come out of the game a bit earlier, then we’ll sub them out.”
The IHSA Board of Directors has scheduled a special meeting on Oct. 28, when administrators are expected to make an announcement regarding winter sports for the 2020-21 season. Regardless of what happens over the next few weeks, Thompson and Rowan have stressed being positive and staying prepared as they remain optimistic for the season to start on time.
“The kids and I know a lot of these decisions are out of our control,” Thompson said. “We haven’t seen anything like this during our lifetime, but we continue to plan as if Nov. 16 will be the start of our season. If the IHSA says something to change that, we’ll adjust, whether we go back to only shooting or holding virtual meetings or finding other things for the kids to do.”