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Chicago HS athletes, coaches cope with teachers strike

High school athletes in Chicago deal with effects of the teacher's strike.

8:39 AM, Sep. 18, 2012 EDT

The Chicago teachers strike has entered its second week.

Two weeks ago when Whitney Young (Chicago) center Jahlil Okafor heard the buzz that teachers in the city were planning to go on strike, his knee-jerk reaction was typical of a high school junior.

"Hey, who doesn’t want to be out of school," Okafor said. "Could be fun."

But after seven days with no classes and no strong indication of when they will resume, Okafor has learned that no school isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

"It's hard because you have to really train on your own," Okafor said. "Then you wonder how the days off can affect your schedule during the season."

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Chicago posts the nation's third largest school system. Teachers are in negotiations over the length of the school day, pay raises and other issues. Simeon boys basketball coach Robert Smith said the strike has had adverse effects on multiple sports.

"Football for example," said Smith, who also serves as dean of students at Simeon. "With the strike we’re not allowed to have official practices and all games were canceled last weekend. It's rough because there's talk that we may be back in school on Wednesday, but I don't know that teams will be ready with two days of preparation. That’s a lot to ask."

Still, Smith said the players have found ways to keep some sort of a routine.

"The football team's captains have brought the team together and met up at the school to work out together and run drills," Smith said. "Coaches can't give instructions during the strike so they’ve really stepped up in order to stay fresh out there. That’s one of the good things."

Another one of the not-so-good things is basketball players are missing out on chances at exposure during after-school open gyms where college coaches are known to come out and evaluate players.

With what some analysts consider the top high school senior in the country – Jabari Parker – Smith was expecting dozens of elite college coaches to be present at Simeon’s open gym all week. While they may come to watch Parker, Smith was counting on the exposure to trickle down to his other players.

"It's unfortunate," Smith said. "Getting a scholarship is all about being seen and these kids are missing some really good opportunities. The college coaches are basically in a holding pattern so hopefully we get this thing rectified really soon."

Jason Jordan is a High School Sports reporter for USA TODAY. He can be reached at jcjordan@usatoday.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY



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