On the field at Saint Patrick High School, the goals are off to the side and up against the fence. For the moment, they're not being used by the Shamrocks. That's because the boys soccer team isn't working with any soccer balls. No soccer balls, no need for goals.
"It’s just really horrible that we can’t shoot around [on the] nets," forward Joshua Torres said. "It just makes me mad."
"We can’t use cones yet, we can’t use balls yet, we have to be in really small groups," said co-head coach Kyle McClure. "So we’re just waiting for that final word from the IHSA."
On the day Chicago and the state of Illinois move into phase four of reopening, allowing for gatherings of up to 50 people, the Illinois High School Association still asked high school teams across the state to act more conservatively. For now, the organization remains in Stage 1 of its Return to Play plan. Stage 1 caps group workouts at ten people and disallows drills or the use of sports-specific equipment. Like all of the other high school teams across the state, the Shamrocks are only able to do conditioning work.
"We discourage it with our guys, but I can tell you after we do our conditioning session, a bunch of them go over to the park and pull a ball out and play soccer, and there’s kids from other schools there, so that’s a little bit frustrating that we can’t be there or we can’t use a ball and yet you go to any park during the day and there’s a whole bunch of kids out there playing soccer," McClure said.
The IHSA hopes it'll be able to give teams the green light to begin traditional practices very soon, but it'll take longer to sort out whether or not fall sports will be played. To this point, no announcement has been made. The IHSA's hope is they'll have a final answer by the end of July.
McClure says he's optimistic there will be a fall season, but not knowing for sure makes it difficult, especially for his team, which is coming off a fourth-place finish in Class 3A.
"It’s very challenging, because that’s really our primary motivation with these guys, because they know that we’re good enough to have a chance to get to state, and to not know if that’s going to be a possibility, keeping the guys at that same level of being motivated and committed is a little more difficult," said McClure.
For Torres, who's a two-time All-State selection, there's an added layer that makes the unknown hard to deal with. The 17-year-old has a handful of scholarship offers, but hopes to add more of them with a great senior season.
"I feel really sad and just feel really horrible that if we don’t have a senior season, all the colleges won’t look at us, see me, and give me more scholarships and more schools to go to," said Torres.
For now, the Shamrocks will continue their conditioning work as they hope for good news. McClure is confident it'll come soon.
"I’m pretty happy with how the IHSA and our administration and politicians are trying to figure out a way to allow these kids to play, even if it looks differently," said McClure. "So we’re cautiously optimistic that we’ll get back on the field."