Chicago Public Schools

CPS Athletes Hope Strike Won't Spoil Their Playoff Dreams

IHSA rules could keep CPS teams from competing in state-sanctioned tournaments

As Chicago’s teachers remain on the picket line, thousands of Chicago student-athletes are caught in the middle, unable to play in key games that could help determine their athletic futures.

Esme McCarthy, a CPS senior who plays for his high school soccer team, was expecting to finish the season and his high school career on high note, but the Chicago teachers strike is putting a damper on those plans.

“We just want the chance to win,” he said.

McCarthy’s dad is also caught in limbo due to the strike, as he is coaching his last season of soccer at Whitney Young High School.

According to rules instituted by the Illinois High School Association, the teachers’ strike could keep soccer players like McCarthy and Rafael Soto from playing in state-sanctioned tournament games this week.

“A lot of people could be scouted for college soccer, and state is a really big tournament, Soto said.

“This is something that could impact the rest of my life. I could get scholarships from this,” fellow athlete Osvaldo Barragan added.

Joe Trost, the founder of the Pepsico Showdown Soccer Tournament, is appealing to the IHSA to allow players from CPS schools to compete, saying that since teams were already ranked before the teachers’ strike began, they should still be allowed to play.

“We don’t want games that kids love to be impacted by what’s going on in the board room,” he said. “The competition for the state series really began on Oct. 1, when coaches were seeding (these teams).”

For now, players at Whitney Young and other schools are hanging onto hope that the principals who work face to face with them will pull for them in the IHSA decision-making process.

“IHSA has the chance to be a hero for a lot of us kids,” McCarthy said.

Despite the pleas of students, the IHSA said in a statement that CPS is the organization keeping the athletes from competing. 

"IHSA By-laws and Policy are created by our member high schools and the principals who serve on our Board of Directors, respectively. The IHSA Policy that encompasses how IHSA State Series Tournaments are handled in relation to the participation by schools who are on strike is very clear in its language. If a high school or district is on strike when the IHSA State Series begins at its lowest level, then that high school or the high schools in that district are prohibited from participating. Because the IHSA Boys and Girls Golf State Series and the Class 1A Soccer State series started before the strike, per the IHSA Policy, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) high school golfers and 1A Soccer teams were allowed to continue to participate in the State Series. However, CPS chose to prohibit any further participation by its student-athletes, thus eliminating their participation in the state series.  One of the rights granted to IHSA member high schools is the ability to appeal Association By-laws and Policy. We have received an appeal request seeking to allow participation by CPS schools in the Boys 2A and 3A Soccer and Girls 1A and 2A Tennis State Series. However, our Board of Directors is unlikely to hear the appeal while the strike is ongoing as it appears the CPS does not plan to allow for participation during the strike. As we look toward the future, there are clear guidelines in place for IHSA member schools to be able to impact change in IHSA By-laws and Policy."

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