Juggling school, sports during COVID-19

Athletes make tradeoffs between travel sports and school experience


Sophomore Ryan Cohen warms up for a GBN basketball practice on Feb. 18. Cohen played in-state tournaments with his travel basketball team and currently plays for boys varsity while learning in person. Photo by Alex Garibashvily

Alex Garibashvily and Daniela Shekman

While quarantining in the fall after returning from an Elite Clubs National League tournament in Arizona, senior Riley Philbin felt wistful about not experiencing the entirety of her senior year with in-person learning. 

“I do feel like I’m missing out and I do wish that I could be there in person, but again, I totally understand that I should stay home after going out of town,” Philbin said in a phone interview.

Eric Etherton, assistant principal of student services, said in an email correspondence dated Feb. 17 that the Glenbrook High School District #225 policy is that students who leave the state have to quarantine 10 days before returning to in-person classes.

New guidelines will have likely gone into effect by the publication of this issue.

Philbin has traveled with her club soccer team to different states to compete, including Wisconsin, Indiana and Arizona. Philbin has continued classes through Zoom as she balances her classwork and tournament schedules. 

When Philbin went to Arizona, instead of staying with her teammates, as she has done in past seasons, she stayed with her parents. While taking an AP Psychology test, Philbin said she felt distracted when her parents would enter the room. 

“They were coming in and out, and I just felt it was so loud with the hotel doors opening and closing,” Philbin said.

However, remote learning has made it easier to get assignments and resources from teachers, as material is generally available online, Philbin said.  

“Before, when I would leave for tournaments, I would have to meet with my teachers a few days in advance and email them and plan so I can get all the work … but now, with all the assignments being posted, I can check right after the class and make up the work,” Philbin said. 

Philbin and her parents weighed the concerns before deciding to travel and thought it would be safe, she said. 

“When I went to Arizona, my experience there definitely made it worth it,” said Philbin. “There were times when I was bummed when I couldn’t go to school, but the memories and fun times I had [in Arizona] made up for it.”

Not all travel sports teams competed outside of Illinois this season. Sophomore Ryan Cohen said in a phone interview that he did not participate in out-of-state tournaments through MAN UP Basketball this season.

The team missed out on various bonding experiences, such as team plane rides and hotel stays, Cohen said. 

“We all love each other so much, it’s like a family-type thing, so we really missed out on that,” Cohen said. 

Cohen described the inconsistent and late practice schedule of this past travel season to be physically detrimental. During the Adaptive Pause, he said that sitting in the same desk and staring at a screen all day hurt his basketball performance. 

According to Philbin, catching some of the conversations her peers were having inside the classroom through Zoom made her upset she was not there to be part of it, but in the end, the soccer tournament was worth it. 

“Since I am a senior, these are the last moments I’ll get with my club team and we’ve been traveling to these tournaments and showcases for the last four years,” said Philbin. “So as much as I want to experience the last things as a senior, I also want to experience the last time on my club team.”