While they play on, Indiana and Wisconsin face challenges
While winter sports in Illinois remain in "pause" mode, Indiana and Wisconsin high schools are playing.
But not without significant challenges.
The governors and health departments in those states have not become as involved in enforcing statewide mitigations as has Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The Indiana and Wisconsin high school athletic associations have allowed each county/region to make their own rules.
Sounds good on the surface. But there is what I would call mild chaos. When speaking to Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Paul Neidig this week, he didn't portray that feeling.
"We're participating. It doesn't look like it normally does. The biggest difference is the reduction in fans," said Neidig, an Eastern Illinois University grad (and whose wife is a Glenbard West alum).
Indiana's girls basketball season began Nov. 2, and boys Nov. 23. Wrestling and girls gymnastics are in full swing. Neidig said most schools limit spectators to between two and four family members per participant. Players are not required to wear masks while playing but must wear them on the bench.
"It's much like our fall," said Neidig, whose state concluded its football championships last weekend though seven football teams (and 15 volleyball and six soccer teams) had their seasons end early due to the pandemic, according to the Indianapolis Star.
"Some teams, based on contact tracing, have had to shut down and quarantine. But nothing is going on we didn't anticipate. I don't believe you can apply a one-size-fits-all to this situation."
While Neidig was upbeat during our conversation, some facts remain. According to the Times of Northwest Indiana, at least eight of the 44 boys basketball teams in Region 1 (the state has 10 regions) have suspended activities and/or missed a game because of coronavirus concerns within their respective programs.
"Wrestling is a different challenge," Neidig said. "But, in basketball it's a five-on-five sport with very close contact. Wrestling is one-on-one, so in some ways it's not as much of a challenge as basketball."
Wisconsin's quagmire is a bit different. While some schools have begun playing basketball -- with players masked while participating -- others have chosen to delay their seasons. Like Indiana, Wisconsin's governor has not been directly involved in high school sports decisions.
The Green Bay Press Gazette reported 43 of 147 scheduled football playoff games were forfeited due to coronavirus concerns.
The Madison Metro School District has set Jan. 25 as the earliest date for winter sports to begin. The Big Eight Conference will have no conference games or championships.
"I don't think it's safe to play right now," Madison Memorial boys basketball coach Steve Collins told the Wisconsin State Journal.
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association is allowing practices and games in all winter sports. And just north of Madison, around the Dells area, games are ongoing.
In both states, it clearly depends on where you live and what your local health department and school districts have decided.
Regardless of which side of the "is it safe to play" debate you're on, I can't imagine how difficult it would be to go to practice every day not knowing if your team is going to be on the court or in quarantine.
That's not to say it's easier in "pause" mode, but at least we all know where we're at.
And we continue to have collective hope for the future.