The Illinois High School Association released COVID-19 updates on Sept. 14, which relax competition restrictions for winter, spring and summer sport seasons. Under the revised guidelines, athletic teams are allowed to compete more than two times per week. University of Chicago health officials have yet to clear Laboratory Schools athletic teams to compete with other schools.
Currently, cross country, golf and girls tennis teams are allowed to hold regular practices outside with social-distancing measures, while indoor and close-contact sports seasons remain undecided.
“We will see if the university grants us permission to have indoor sports. My gut feeling tells me that the winter season will be limited in what we will be allowed to do,” Athletics Director David Ribbens said.
While students and parents are eager to return to school and athletics in full capacity, the athletics department is trying to make the best out of the current circumstances.
“I think the students are chomping at the bit to get started, and I know they want to play,” Mr. Ribbens said. “I just think the limitations that are imposed on us, both by the university and the governor, the IHSA and the Illinois Department of Public Health are all just restrictions that we need to abide by at this point.”
Sophomore Ethan Kucera, who plays golf and squash, echoed Mr. Ribbens’ statement by saying that he would like to compete this winter with restrictions in place.
“I think it could be hazardous if the school and the university decided that we could all go inside. So I think there should be some sort of return to practices or games planned, but I don’t necessarily think it should all be indoors, even for squash,” Ethan said.
Senior Sana Shahul, an athlete on the cross country and girls basketball teams, would accept the opportunity to practice indoors, if permitted.
“I personally think that it’s OK,” Sana said. “Because of the nature of our team, and how small we are, I think that if given the opportunity to practice inside, I totally would.”
While Sana trusts her teammates to be socially-distant and safe outside of practices, she does not have this same sense of trust with teams outside of U-High. But if the University of Chicago does permit competition, she would compete.
“I don’t think for me, the question would be, ‘Should I not do it?’ It is my senior season, and I do truly love the sport. And if the university deems it safe, I trust the university completely,” Sana said.
Even though the University of Chicago and Lab’s athletics department know students are yearning to return to unrestricted athletics, Mr. Ribbens said safety will be prioritized.
“I think the health and welfare of students is a priority, and I certainly understand the mental health aspect of it,” Mr. Ribbens said. “It’s challenging for students and families in a lot of different ways.”