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Photo by ZACK WATERS

A soggy Watseka baseball field sits vacant in Legion Park.

As a kid growing up in a small rural town, oftentimes sports are your only form of escapism. For multiple sport athletes, preparing for upcoming sports seasons is nothing but routine and when that routine is broken, it can leave a void that many aren’t sure what to do with.

That’s the case for many students right now, not just in Illinois, but all over the world. Earlier this month, the IHSA announced that the 2020 spring sports season would be postponed until further notice.

“It definitely stinks,” said Watseka athlete Natalie Schroeder. “We athletes build our whole lives around sports, such as schedule planning of when we are going to get our homework done, what days we can actually cook a meal or if we have to go out and eat and even planning other activities around sports. Now, all of a sudden it’s done.”

Schroeder, a multi-sport athlete playing golf, basketball and softball, said she has had trouble adjusting to the changes but is trying to remain as active as she can.

“I’m not used to having no sports at all,” she said. “Right now, I’m just doing small things. I still try to chip a ball in a bucket in our basement, play catch with my sister, bump the volleyball back and forth with my sister and shoot some hoops in my driveway.” Schroeder added that spending time with her family has been a real stress relief for her during the break.

Another group of athletes the postponed season directly affects are this year’s seniors. Many of them are worried about being unable to play their final season of the sports they love with the people they’ve grown up with.

“It’s just a very emotional time for me being a senior,” said MCP football player and Cissna Park athlete Rudy King. “You don’t know what’s next in your chapter. Baseball was where I found my love for sports. It was my favorite sport before football became my main priority, and to see my season be possibly canceled or postponed really hurts in a different way.” King added that while the situation is of course not ideal, he’s empathetic to the fact that the measures being taken are to save lives. “It’s confusing and hard to understand why this has to happen my senior year, but in the end, I understand that what is happening is saving lives. I just hope at some point we can all get over this virus and live out our senior year.”

Milford athlete Alex Barney is remaining positive about the situation as well. “There isn’t much that I can do about it so I am staying optimistic and hoping that my team and I can get back at it soon,” he said.

“In the meantime, I’m just doing whatever things I can to stay ready for when we eventually go back to playing.”

IHSA Director Craig Anderson announced in a recent press release that the IHSA is considering extending the spring sports season limitation later into the summer months in hopes of allowing teams and athletes to play.

“That’s a plus right now,” said Watseka’s Conner Curry.

“Obviously it’s difficult for all sports members across the country right now,” he said. “It feels weird having so much time off, but this situation is out of our control right now. So, myself and many others are just hoping for the best and to get some of the season in.”

At the time of print, the tentative date to resume the 2020 spring sports season is April 8, however per the IHSA’s website “there are state, governmental and health bodies that will need to approve this action as we get closer to it (April 8).”