Week in the life of a COVID-19 athlete

When Chicago Public Schools (CPS) finally gave us the go-ahead to play basketball, I knew this was not going to be like any other

Tommy Cleland ’21 goes up for a layup in a game against Lindblom (Tommy Cleland ’21)

season. With a shortened schedule starting in February and ending on March 20th, a lack of fans, and the absence of a tournament, it has certainly been a crazy experience to be an athlete during COVID-19. Before we could even have our first game, the Illinois High School Sports Association (IHSA) required our team to have seven practices, so we had to practice almost every day. Our first two games were scheduled to take place on Feb 19 and 20.  

We had tryouts on Feb. 11 and 12. We played a lot of scrimmages for the coach to see who he liked, and did a lot of running. After practice on the 12th, our coach told us the 15 guys who made it.


The first day of practice was Saturday, Feb. 13. It was very odd to walk into the building with no one in it, surrounded by elevator capacity signs, and follow the arrow stickers that traffic on one side of the staircase directing you where to go. On top of that, each day I have to fill out a survey saying I do not have any symptoms and I have to get my temperature checked. When we practice, we all have to wear masks. Other than that and being really out of shape, practices were not any different than before. 


On Sunday, Feb. 14, we ran for about half the practice to get in shape. On top of that, we had to learn a whole week of plays in about 20 minutes.


Monday, the school was closed so we planned to come back Tuesday, Feb. 16. However,  CPS made a decision that day that the preschools would not be going back in person, which meant all CPS schools would be closed. Unfortunately, because of the practice requirements, we had to cancel our first game on Friday the 19th, so we started to prepare for our first game on Saturday against Holy Trinity. We were then wondering how many more bumps in the road there will be to affect our shortened season. Instead of practice that day, our coach had us watch film of Holy Trinity for Saturday’s game. 


We went right back to it on Wednesday, Feb 17. We drilled in those plays the whole practice and implemented defenses and rotations for the game.


Thursday was very similar to Wednesday. The only difference was that it was one day closer to game day. 


Friday was a walk-through. Our coach had us run through the plays and defenses a couple of times just to make sure we had it ingrained in our heads. One more day. I could not sleep. 


Gameday arrived. It was finally the day. It was very unusual to first be playing on a weekend and not have my mom there to take photos and cheer at the top of her lungs. It was so different breathing through cloth with no fans. It was very eerie. The game went well though. We ended the first half tied at 21. It was a hard-fought game by my fellow Eagles and me that went into overtime. We eventually won with clutch free throws, 55-51.

I am so happy I am able to have a season no matter how jam-packed

the schedule it is. Even though the mask can be a pain, the schedule is all over the place, and each day I wonder If I will have another game. However, it is 100% worth it. Playing a game every day is tiring but in the end it is so fulfilling to hear that buzzer noise and the screeching of the shoes. Being an athlete at this time is sort of stressful and chaotic, but it is so worth it. It’s just an experience that cannot be mimicked anywhere else. It truly is one of the best games in the world.  

Even though there is a small danger to playing and basketball is considered a high-risk sport, the precautions of having no fans and making each player wear a mask while playing makes us players feel safe. There is no reason not to let a kid get out of the house and do something they truly love to do.