BELLEVILLE, Ill. — High school basketball is officially back in Illinois, and many teams will take the court for the first game of 2021 on Friday.
All players and staff members will be required to wear a face covering on the court before, during and after the game. Players and coaches will also sit socially-distanced in chairs on the sidelines.
Spectators will be allowed at a limited capacity in line with Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines. Most schools across the St. Louis Metro East will allow two spectators per varsity player, or in some cases, two spectators per upperclassman to attend games.
The Althoff Catholic varsity basketball team will host its home opener on Friday against Waterloo High School.
Althoff varsity basketball head coach Greg Leib said his team was thrilled when they learned they would have a season at all.
“They were pretty excited,” Leib said. “They were jumping around. So, ya know, as small as our school is, we’ve got a lot of kids playing basketball, and so a lot of hoop dreams going on here. And that’s the fun part of it. You know you get to help kids realize their dreams and help chase their dreams, and now we get to continue that.”
Althoff is currently only scheduled to play seven games this season, but Leib said seven is better than none.
The Illinois High School Association announced that there will be no state tournament this year for boys or girls basketball, like other high school sports that are not considered to be in the low-risk category of COVID-19 in the state of Illinois.
Waterloo head coach Scott Spinner took over the program shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The team was able to meet for a handful of workouts during the fall of 2020, but most practices throughout the winter were held on Zoom.
Spinner had to adapt to a new way of coaching basketball and a new way of interacting with players who he hasn’t had much time to bond with yet in person.
He said this season isn’t about the outcome. It’s about the process.
“And so we really don’t talk about winning and losing,” Spinner said. “Matter of fact, we try not to use those words too much. And don’t get confused about that. We certainly play to win, but we really believe in committing to a process. And if we commit to that process to reach our full potential, and that’s every player reaching their potential, which allows the team to reach its potential. If we do that, then we know in the end, I think we’ll have the results that we want.”
Leib said although Althoff would love the chance to compete for a state title this year, the absence of a playoff tournament gives the chance for players to play for a different reason.
“Going through COVID, remote learning and that sort of thing that the kids have gone through, I think we can look past that, and enjoy the game maybe for more of what it was designed for,” Leib said. “About the pleasure of playing basketball as opposed to ya know, what it can get us.”
Althoff hosts Waterloo in the season opener for both teams on Friday. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.