Catholic high school players, parents rally to bishop; ‘Let them play’

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — To play or not play; the high school basketball season for area Catholic schools is in jeopardy after the Diocese of Peoria announced Monday that its high schools will not participate in the upcoming season.

Student-athletes and their parents from Bloomington Central Catholic (BCC) and Peoria Notre Dame (PND) gathered at the steps of the diocese Sunday afternoon, begging the bishop Daniel Jenky to let them play basketball this season.

Earlier this week the diocese announced the 2020-2021 season would be sidelined because of the pandemic. Sam Tallen a senior at BCC high school plays football, baseball, and basketball. He said while they respect the bishop, his decision is not a fair one.

“It hurts more than anything, it feels like the bishop doesn’t care,” Tallen said.

The decision comes after Gov.J.B. Pritzker reversed his stance and re-classified basketball as a high-risk sport of transmitting COVID-19. Because 46 other states have tipped off, Tallen said this decision will impact players’ futures post-high school.

“It basically just gives our competition for other players a leg up on recruiting and talking to other coaches because they get to show the film of their senior season and we may never get to,” Tallen said.

Parents from BCC and PND joined their students Sunday, holding signs and chanting ‘let them play’. Peoria Notre Dame mom Kelly Schuler said her junior son Colin is devastated without sports.

“This hurts them mentally and emotionally,” Schuler said. “We have players today who that didn’t necessarily want to come and take part because they’re depressed.”

Bloomington Central Catholic mom Elaine Trosino said her senior son Matthew is missing out on once in a lifetime memories. She said the diocese shouldn’t decide what’s best for their kids.

“We’re not so worried about them contracting the virus because we know that they’re healthy and that they’re in a very protected age group,” Trosino said. “We’d rather see them go do the things that they love and live their lives, and we’d even sign a waiver saying that we understand any potential risk.”

Trosino said the decision is confusing since students are already in school five days a week in-person.

“They’ve mitigated contact spread, everything has been really successful at our school,” Trosino said.

Two seniors at BCC JT Welch and Jadyn Ellison said they and their teammates just want to hit the hardwood and shoot hoops.

“We’ll do anything; no fans, wear masks, less games,” Welch said. “Anything it takes to play, we’ll do it.”

“I hope the diocese can rethink their decision and give us a shortened season or something,” Ellison said.

Schuler said parents are left with no choice and will do whatever it takes to do what they feel is best for their kids–playing.

“If the diocese isn’t going let us do it here in Peoria, we’re going go outside of the state,” Schuler said. “It’s sad parents are looking to send their kids to other schools outside of this area.”

Schuler said this summer most of the boys played AAU Basketball in neighboring states like Missouri, Indiana, and Wisconsin. None of them came home with the virus.

Both the parents and players hope Bishop Jenky sees their message and the parties can reach some sort of compromise to squeeze in a basketball season.

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