Endless hours of after-school practices, long commutes to away games and late nights buried in books after their games – all this demanding work and preparation could go to waste for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) high school athletes hoping to get noticed by college coaches and scouts, due to the Chicago Teachers Union strikes that kept students outside of school for fifteen days.
As a product of two collegiate athlete parents and being the sister of another collegiate athlete, everyone in my household went to college for free, except for me. Although athletic scholarships are highly debated (including whether college athletes should get paid), athletic scholarships are desired by any high school athlete serious about their sport.
Athletic scholarships could be seen as the door to a college education for many students who play sports in high school. Not everyone could get a scholarship, but according to NSCA Sports, fewer than 2 percent of them have a chance. As everyone knows, a college education isn’t cheap. Being an athlete with raw talent could bring them an opportunity without getting into debt.
Due to the Chicago Teachers Union strike, Chicago public school athletes are missing football playoffs. According to IHSA rules, CPS athletes need to play a minimum of eight games to qualify for the postseason.
Cross country and tennis teams are not affected by the eight game rule, but they weren’t able to get supervisors at meets, which are needed, according to IHSA rules.
Forfeited games over the strike are coming with a potential price for these athletes. Athletes are at a huge disadvantage in this moment of their careers.
Jennifer Doede is the athletic director at Joliet Central High School and the women’s volleyball coach at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. Although Joliet is not affected by the strike, Doede still understands the impact the strike has on multiple student athletes and students in general.
Doede said high school athletes still have a chance at college scholarships because coaches and scouts will look at their stats from previous seasons.
“I think when colleges are recruiting, they look holistically at a season and not just one or two games,” she said. “Even though it’s a bummer that the students of CPS are missing out on opportunities, they’re looking at stats from the entire year and not just games at the end of the season.”
Since Doede is a college coach herself, she said she follows stats from the past, too.
Another way high school student athletes could help themselves is by building tapes of their highlights.
“Student athletes have multiple tapes of their play, whether they’re volleyball, football or even cross-country,” she said. “You have multiple meets that you could always send in your stats. Some tapes that we saw necessarily didn’t have post season play on it, it was what the student athlete had their best game throughout the year.”
However, Doede said some athletes who weren’t on their radar could start doing well toward the middle or end of the season, meaning coaches and scouts could want to recruit them. These athletes might not have a chance for their last few games now because of the strike.
CPS students playing high school football need three practices before their games on Friday. With the strike, those practices couldn’t happen.
Missing out on sports is one thing, but every CPS student fell behind in their academic curriculum due to the strike.
“I think that people always forget they’re student athletes, they put the ‘student’ in student athlete, so it’s not necessarily just about athletics, but also about the whole student,” Doede said. “It stinks that student athletes and students in general are being affected, but they’re eight days behind on learning from the education standpoint.”
The timing of the strike wasn’t in anyone’s favor, especially for football playoffs.
“I think the fact that it happens to be right at the IHSA playoff time is unfortunate,” she said.
Scholarships aside, sometimes the most exciting time of the season is the postseason.
“Everyone starting over at 0-0 and has a chance towards a title is exciting, whether it be regional, sectional or state,” Doede said. “CPS student athletes aren’t getting to experience that excitement because of the strike.”
Jack Brody is a college basketball player at Saint Xavier University in Chicago who was able to go to college on an athletic scholarship. Although he went to a private high school in the suburbs, he still understands the difficulty of the strike.
“As a college athlete, I really feel bad for the high school athletes looking to further their athletic careers in college,” Brody said. “I think that the strike is causing those CPS kids to miss valuable games and exposure to college programs that could recruit them or even offer a scholarship.”
Brody also said that if he was a CPS student athlete, he would want every opportunity to get exposure and to get his name out to coaches.
He said if he was in the same position as a CPS student athlete is right now, that his path could’ve changed.
“I don’t think I would have gone to school and not played basketball, but I am sure that some of the kids in this situation are thinking the opposite,” he said. “Some of them may be leaning towards going to a college and not playing a sport now.”
Bella Michaels is a student at DePaul University studying sports journalism and media. She’s also a reporter for Radio DePaul Sports. Michaels is upset for CPS student athletes.
“I am devastated for the athletes that are getting caught up in the middle of all this,” she said. “I understand why the teachers are striking and the difficulties they’re facing, like classroom sizes and much more, but I think the athletes should not be suffering because of this.”
Many hopeful athletes want to make their sports into their career, which puts the pressure on even more.
Athletes at football and basketball powerhouse Simeon High School are facing an unfortunate struggle to seal deals that might not be possible at this time.
“For example, many athletes at Simeon are looking to seal their scholarship deals after their state playoff competition that is currently on the line,” Michaels said.
Michaels pointed out how many student athletes hope to reach Division I level and that scholarships are heavily relied on for these purposes.
Anyone could be the next big thing, she said. Unfortunately, it’s all about timing right now.
“You never know what athlete on this team currently could be the next big thing, but that’s all on the line right now for them,” she said.