Members of the boys’ soccer team at George Washington High School on the Far South Side looked forward to finally getting back on the field last week, more than six months after high school athletes learned that fall sports were pushing for spring has been.
But after just two days of testing, that excitement turned to frustration when they believed they were booted from their home field in Calumet Park with little explanation. When the team pressed for answers, it had to cancel the tryout last Friday.
On Sunday, a group of students held a press conference on site to raise awareness of the issue.
“We like to play here,” said Gabriel Fuentes, a sophomore on the soccer team. “For us it is ridiculous not to have a field of our own.”
But later on Sunday, Michel Lemons, a Chicago Park District spokeswoman, said the field would be ready on Monday “as previously indicated to the team”.
However, coach Al Perez said he only learned from Lemons’ testimony that his team could continue playing at Calumet Park. In a text message shared with the Sun-Times, Washington Sports Director Matt Jandura said the park district “is still awaiting instructions” on how the state’s reopening plan will affect public parks.
“This weekend the adults behind the scenes were trying to say, ‘What’s going on?'” Joe Trost, an attorney for student athletes, told reporters during the press conference. “And there were no answers.”
Lemons did not immediately respond to questions about the cause of the confusion or about Jandura’s previous testimony. Meanwhile, Perez said he was “staying in the dark” about what exactly happened.
“This is just another day in CPS,” he said.
Also on Sunday, another youth soccer program announced plans to use the same field Washington has made its home since 1995. The Rayados de Monterrey Futbol Club in Chicago and Northwest Indiana announced on Facebook that teams from its soccer academy would start practicing there Monday.
Amid the confusion, the boys’ soccer team in Washington believed they were under pressure to find a new home field. After rashly agreeing to practice at Pullman Park, about ten kilometers from Calumet Park, Perez said he had to save face and use both fields.
Now Washington’s home game against Walter Payton College Prep on Friday is likely to be postponed after the team missed last Friday’s friendly. As Trost noted, according to state rules, the teams have to train seven days in a row before they play games – and the CPS schools were already “behind the ball last week”.
“While suburban schools actually started practicing on Monday, CPS didn’t start practicing until Wednesday,” said Trost.
Solace was among those on Sunday who said the recent uncertainty exemplifies the inequalities faced by students in schools like Washington that don’t have football facilities on campus like other Chicago public schools and those in the suburbs.
“For schools like us – like high schools in the neighborhood [in] Worker communities like black and brown communities – we must continue to face these injustices caused by COVID-19, “said Trinity Colon, a junior who plays on the girls’ soccer team.