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Sports

'All I can do is control what I control' Area coaches, players react to a basketball season put on hold

St. Charles North head coach Tom Poulin talks to his players during a time out against West Aurora in St. Charles Dec. 16
St. Charles North head coach Tom Poulin talks to his players during a time out against West Aurora in St. Charles Dec. 16

St. Charles North boys basketball coach Tom Poulin is putting what he frequently tells his program into practice – stay positive and be ready for whenever the lights turn on to formally play.

In a move that pre-empted a scheduled IHSA board meeting expected to unveil details on the upcoming winter prep sports season on Wednesday, the Illinois Deptartment of Public Health and Gov. JB Pritzker announced Tuesday that the basketball season has been put on hold.

"All I can do is control what I can control," Poulin said. "And, that is going to be to continue to prepare for a season and really remain hopeful that it comes. I like to be positive and not be negative about it."

"I want to be ready for a season when it comes, whenever it's November, December, January, whatever it is," Poulin continued. "I want to be ready and I want the guys to be ready. It's really what you make of it. A lot of coaches preach these things to their kids and we have to practice them now: I need to stay positive...and make sure I'm prepared when they say you can go out and compete. I'm going to be believe we will have that time; I'm not going to let myself think that we won't play."

The IHSA has stated that as recent as last Friday it presented options to IDPH to play a season with safety precautions. Practices were tentatively scheduled to begin Nov. 16 and official games by Nov. 30.

Geneva senior forward Dylan Fuzak and the Vikings have "definitely been looking at the positives."

"It really starts with coach [Scott] Hennig," said Fuzak, an Indiana Tech commit. "He's been really positive throughout the whole COVID-19 situation. Me, and [point guard] Nathan Valentine, I think, we took it on ourselves to make sure we're encouraging everybody. Make sure we're giving each other pats on the back [and keeping] those spirits high during practices."

The IHSA is still moving forward with its meeting on Wednesday, but details remain unclear as to how the sports calendar will be re-constructed. No timeline for a start date has been communicated, either.

Batavia girls basketball coach Kevin Jensen emailed the Chronicle on Tuesday. After two months of contact days and two days a week of lifting during that span, Jensen says the program has had no positive COVID-19 cases.

"I am at a loss," Jensen emailed. "I just think that there are so many adults that have failed children in this country and state. It doesn't matter if you are red or blue, I think there are examples of failures from every perspective."

"We could consider the leadership in our country and inability to maintain this virus as a failure for kids. You can go the other direction and look at our state failing our kids by keeping things shut down. I think the biggest failure is adults refusing to work together to figure anything out," Jensen continued.

"Keeping it broad, [Democrats] and [Republicans] can't agree on anything and little progress is made on anything. More specifically in our state, leaders can't communicate so adults and kids can at least have plans. The lack of communication from Gov. [and] IDPH and IHSA makes me so sad," Jensen concluded.   

The IHSA allowed programs 20 contact days earlier this year.

St. Charles North's entire basketball program spanning varsity to freshman teams has seen upward of 50 participants spread across two gyms. The varsity team generally sees close to 20 participants alone. Tuesday marked the program's 18th contact day.

Burlington Central has seen "really healthy" numbers for participation as well. Last year, the Rockets had 29 girls across several programs and has had over 30 at most of their contact days.

"We've been dying for [contact days]. We were itching to go in the summer; we were itching to go at the end of the fall," Burlington Central girls basketball coach Collin Kalamatas said. "Finally, getting the opportunity to be pretty hands-on with this group has been a lot of fun."

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