CHICAGO - Chicago Public Schools' athletes were allowed to practice for the first time Monday since the coronavirus pandemic began.
In 25 years of coaching soccer, Alvaro Perez has never felt pressure like this.
“There’s a sense of anxiety at a personal level and second, a responsibility in you, and in so many ways responsibility about keeping these boys healthy,” said Perez, who is the head soccer coach for the George Washington High School team.
Instead of shouting at kids to hustle, Perez is yelling a new refrain at their first practice: Practice social distancing!
That’s the rule for all CPS student athletes. No physical contact is allowed at practice - even in a contact sport.
“Yeah it’s just like very stressful for us because we’re not accustomed to being six feet apart, no contact, because obviously soccer is a contact sport,” said Angel Avila, a soccer player at George Washington High School.
Other changes include daily temperature checks, no team huddles and no sharing a water cooler.
Coaches must wear masks, but the players don’t have to if they can social distance outside.
There is already extra pressure on some athletes.
For soccer players, the CPS teachers strike kept them out of the playoffs last fall. Now, they are worried COVID-19 could force them off the field again.
“Since I’m a senior, this is my last year to prove myself to colleges, and if I don’t have that opportunity, it’s going to be basically stripped away from me,” said Avila.
Players say they’re doing all they can to make this season happen by following the rules that have been applied and social distancing.