coronavirus illinois

‘Let Us Play:' Students Take Part in Suburban Rally Calling for Fall Sports to Resume

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Student-athletes, parents and supporters gathered in suburban McCook on Sunday, calling for the Illinois High School Association to let them participate in fall sports and return to the classroom.

In July, the IHSA announced its plan for the 2020-21 school year, moving some fall sports to the spring and allowing others to continue as planned with restrictions.

Cross country, girls golf, girls swimming and girls tennis were deemed "low-risk" and have been allowed to continue. But that's not the case for other sports like volleyball, soccer and football.

"In a recent year, we lost 3,000 kids to car accidents," said Dave Ruggles, parent and emcee of Sunday's rally. "Do we take away cars? Shutdown for the flu? What are we doing?"

Kaylie Dahms, a Planfield Central High School senior who hopes to play soccer in college, said she took part in order to advocate for those who couldn't advocate for themselves.

"For me it's all about the college recruitment, like, it's so tough right now," Dahms said.

The story is a similar one for Jonathan Rodriguez, a senior on the Thornton Township High School soccer team.

"I come from a community that's really low income, so a lot of us really rely on scholarships, and this is a time where we look forward to having colleges come out to our games," Rodriguez said.

Students, along with those who support them, hope their voices will be heard before it's too late.

"I'm hoping that this allows student leaders to see our pain, to hear our statistics, to hear our stories, to hear that we're anxious, we're depressed, and sport is the only way we come with all that," said student-athlete Emely Oviedo.

The IHSA sent a letter to Gov. Pritzker last week, asking for authority to control the return of sports. As of Sunday, the organization had not received a response.

A University of a Wisconsin study shows the cancellation of sports is taking a significant toll on the mental health of adolescents.

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