Cooper Mitze

Monticello High School’s Cooper Mitze goes up for a shot during the 2019-20 basketball season.

The word summer can mean many things: vacation, heat, and of course, sports. The break from school is the prime time for athletes to enhance their skills.

Teams, leagues, and tournaments spring up every summer as an opportunity for kids to practice and better themselves. Athletes are enabled to stay fit, make friends, grow in dedication, and learn about sportsmanship. These qualities promote a healthy lifestyle, but does this outweigh the risks of COVID-19?

Many opportunities for travel sports have remained open this summer, but they’ve been tailored to fit the current circumstances.

Usually, we start in the spring, but this year, we weren’t able to start until late June,” said Reese Patton, an incoming freshman at Monticello High School.

As a softball player, Patton competes over the summer for the Monticello Youth Travel Ball Association. “This season definitely looked different than others,” she continued. “During practice, we had to work in smaller groups because of social distancing. We didn’t share balls with the other teams, and we aren’t allowed to shake hands after the games.”

Addison Wallace, a softball player for the Moulty Country Rush, agreed that the season was quite distinct from those of previous summers.

We all had to sign a waiver before we could come back, stating that USSSA and the team were not going to be held accountable for anyone who contracted the virus,” Wallace explained. “Our first couple of practices, we had to split the team into different dugouts to follow the order of no groups with ten or more.”

Both Wallace and Patton, MHS students, remain hopeful for a high school season in the spring.

I hope that we’ll kind of have a hold on this COVID 19 thing by then, but I don’t entirely know how likely that is,” Wallace admitted.

Likewise, Patton added, “I’m hopeful that we will have a vaccine that works by the spring. I really don’t know if it is likely because I don’t know what the future will hold.”

Cooper Mitze, a junior at MHS and player for the Illinois Braves, concurred with these optimistic predictions, stating, “I believe we will have a spring season; however, it will be different, just as everything else is. I assume we’ll be wearing masks inside and maybe have no fans.”

However, opinions don’t necessarily determine the facts. Mitze acknowledged the possibility of cancellation and remarked, “I would feel safe but very disappointed. To put in all this work this summer and end up not having it go to use would not be ideal.”

Although there may be a relatively high chance of sports in the spring, the chance for fall athletics differs. All three athletes agreed that the outlook for the fall wasn’t very promising.

Wallace pointed out, “We can barely go back to school as it is, let alone travel to other schools and use their locker rooms. I think they (IHSA) will try their hardest to get in sports, but I just don’t understand how it’ll work.”

Many student athletes are hoping to play through the pandemic, but this generates the question: where should the line be drawn? At what point do the dangers of illness overshadow the benefits of exercise and teamwork?

Patton shared, “Sports are a super important part of my life, but this kind of virus isn’t something we have ever dealt with in our lifetimes. Unless we can get the virus under control, I don’t think sports should be the number one priority.”

If they were cancelled, I would be devastated,” she admitted, “but ultimately, I think it’s more important to be safe than to have sports.”

Mitze added in agreement, “Part of the high school experience is playing different sports, and I feel like it wouldn’t be the same without them. I do believe that sports are very important, but not exactly necessary.”

Wallace, while recognizing the need for safety, said, “If I was in charge, I would try my best not to cancel. I’d try setting up games with other schools, but if none agreed, then practices are better than nothing. I’d rather practice and compete with teammates than have nothing at all.”

None of the spring sports had a season last year, and to me, sports are needed,” she continued. “It really gets me moving, makes me strive to be better, and ultimately brings us (teammates) closer together. It takes the stress off of the daily problems we have to deal with, and we can focus on what we love to do.”