IHSA potentially strips away another season for college-bound spring athletes
September 17, 2020
For a lot of high school athletes (and adults will try to convince us otherwise), our sports are the reason we go to school. We wake up every morning at the crack of dawn, sit in class for hours on end, and when the final bell rings, it’s all worth it to be able to compete in a sport we love, for a program bigger than ourselves.
There is an undeniable sense of pride in representing your town and school regardless of if you play in front of the hundreds of fans on the varsity football team, or just the loyal supporters following the girl’s softball team. I for one, was on the softball team and the key word here being “was.”
According to the IHSA, around 58,580 spring athletes and myself lost our 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 29, they announced their plan for the 2020-2021 athletic seasons. This involved moving the baseball and softball among other sports, into a new six-week long summer season. Since then, they have extended the duration of the season to eight weeks.
Of course, the health and safety of athletes are the IHSA’s top priority, but softball and baseball are naturally socially-distanced sports. By moving the seasons into the summer, that makes recruiting difficult for athletes looking to play at the collegiate level.
The IHSA then proceeded to beat us while we were down and on Sept. 14 released that they will not allow spring athletes to compete in both school and travel sports at the same time.
For any athlete looking to get recruited to play at the collegiate level, this puts them at a loss. Not only does this impact softball and baseball; but volleyball and lacrosse as well. We are paying thousands of dollars to play travel sports in order to get college exposure from around the country. The summertime is one of the peak seasons to do that.
Not only would it be a huge waste of money if we did choose to play for our high school, but it would also allow our competition in every other state to attend exposure tournaments while we are still playing for our school.
While Iowa high schools have been playing summer baseball since 1946 and summer softball since 1955, they have been facing backlash in regards to recruiting for a while now. Some say that if a college coach really wants to see an athlete, they will come. It’s no secret that college coaches are more inclined to see the thirty kids on their list at one tournament as opposed to one kid at a high school game.
In the September release, IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said, “The Board agreed that if a student-athlete chooses to leave their school team for a non-school team, it simply creates an opportunity for another student to step in and fill that role.”
With the college-bound athletes out of the way, it does give more kids a chance to play on varsity, but at the cost of being a less competitive team. The quality of varsity teams will diminish as more and more athletes choose to play club.
There’s no winning for us, as student-athletes when it comes to the decision that the IHSA has forced us to make. It’s either play for the school team and lose out on precious recruiting opportunities from colleges or stay with a club team, miss our second-consecutive season, and endure school without the sense of belonging that comes with being a student-athlete.
*As of October 19, the IHSA has decided to allow athletes to simultaneously participate in school and club sports. However, this still generates complications dealing with scheduling between two teams at once.