Fall sport coaches in football, girls volleyball and boys soccer already have a busy schedule, but the past six months have been much more hectic than usual thanks to the pandemic. Find out more in this feature presented by Edward Medical Group.
The COVID 19 Pandemic has forced numerous changes around the IHSA. One of the biggest adjustments from last year was moving 3 of the 7 High Contact Fall sports to the spring of 2021 to avoid the spread of the virus. Once Football, Boys Soccer, and Girls Volleyball held their condensed spring seasons, they were only allowed regular season competition and no state playoffs. Fast forward to this fall and all sports are back to a normal routine. But what does that mean for coaches who take command in more than one sport?
“It was a juggling act it really was.”
“From a coaching stand point, running a program twice over a six-month span has led to a hectic 2021 schedule.”
“I introduce myself to my wife every night I go home because I don’t see her much but she’s a great coach’s wife and she understands it so she’s very supportive of me being gone an awful lot obviously during the football season but as an assistant AD I’m gone a lot”
Neuqua Valley’s Bill Ellinghaus is not only the head Football coach in the fall, but during the offseason he oversees Wildcat athletics as the assistant AD under Branden Adkins. Not being able to coach football every week during the fall of 2020 gave the Wildcat veteran the opportunity to see many fall sports that he’s never witnessed over the extended offseason.
“I love athletics in all phases I love being an assistant athletic director seeing all the other kids doing different things, I got to see a cross country meet last year which I hadn’t been to a cross country meet because it’s usually during the fall season” that was one of the coolest things being able to go see something that I haven’t seen in my 24 years because I’m always doing football so.”
And the time off certainly has not seemed to hurt the Wildcats performance on the gridiron. Neuqua went 4-0 in the spring season and just ended the fall regular season a perfect 9-0 as the DVC Champions.
Ellinghaus is not the only coach in the area that has to juggle a jam-packed year. Naperville Central’s Brie Isaacson lives in a volleyball fantasy by coaching the Naperville Central Varsity Girls, the Central Freshman Boys and is the head coach of Club 1 Volleyball. Not to mention she’s a parent as well. But with girls in the fall and boys and club seasons in the spring, it was manageable. After the COVID schedule adjustments Isaacson days were basically eat, sleep, and volleyball. This past spring she was coaching girls varsity and Club 1, along with the freshman boys just a couple weeks after the girls season ended.
It may have been a hectic adjustment, but in her perspective…….
“It beats the alternative which is not playing and we have a great group of seniors here who wanted the opportunity to play and I’m so grateful that they’re getting it and we manage right like all of us manage our families my husband coaches too so it’s been a little crazy busy but I’d much rather be this way than it was the other way.”
Isaacson believes the return to a normal routine helped her and the Redhawks bond even closer.
“Being on a team is really important and it’s really special and even though we’ve played a lot of team sports in the last 4 months it’s important for these kids and it helps them be well rounded people and when they were not in school all day and those different things that were kinda taken away the sports kinda picked up their spirits.”
Another coach with a lot on his plate is Naperville North head boys soccer coach Jim Konrad. While coaching the boys he also coaches his son Ryan Konrad who competes on varsity for the Huskies. He is also an assistant with the girls team in the spring and works as a dean at Naperville North off the field. This year he had the privilege to coach the boys twice in 2021 while assisting the girls in between. Coaching, being a parent, and the responsibilities of a dean at Naperville North may be a lot but Konrad just looks at it as more opportunities.
“I love being bust obviously those of us that coach and teach like that action like to be around kids and seeing them back out on the field without masks on and back in the schools and they have masks on. The worlds forgotten how busy they were before COVID but it’s great to be back and I love it bring more on because now that we lived without it it’s great to have it back.”
Regardless of the season outcome for every team, this six-month gauntlet will be a memorable one for many coaches across the state. But it’s the passion for their sports and working with these special student athletes that make it all worthwhile.
Reporting for Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Patrick Codo.
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