MOUNT CARMEL — The road to high school sports in the fall has been an incredibly blurry path — to be frank.
While Illinois had some of the country’s toughest restrictions across the country, there were certainly worries that further cancellations could be looming in the fall.
But with the Illinois High School Association’s announcement on July 3, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of a return to sports in the fall.
The IHSA announced approval of its Stage 2 Return To Play Guidelines, which had been given the go ahead by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Furthermore, the IHSA announced an adaption to its guidelines to match the state’s “Restore Illinois” plan. Instead of using varying terminology, the state will begin referring to its return similar to that of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s plan.
This advancement allows teams to expand social gatherings for practices to 50 or less in groups — which refers to select gatherings, it can exceed this total if they’re socially distanced and not within contact. These practices or workouts are limited to five hours per day.
Teams will also be allowed to begin contact days, permitting 20 contact days spanning from June 30 and Aug. 9.
Some other notable guidelines include coaches, officials, volunteers and athletic trainers being mandated to wear a mask, students being encouraged to and social distanced whenever feasible, no hand shaking, students maintaining use of their own water bottle, and thorough cleaning of facilities.
Any IHSA member school is permitted to use these guidelines as long as their Region has advanced to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, and have local school district approval.
Although many schools don’t allow fans into summer contact days or practices, this measure does allow for teams to permit 20% of a stadium or field’s capacity to observe athletic play.
“Safety remains at the forefront of everything that the IHSA is doing as we move into Phase 4 and beyond,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in the release. “We appreciate the collaborative efforts of the SMAC and IDPH in recognizing the physical, mental, and emotional benefits for our student-athletes and coaches as they progress into training in a more traditional practice setting. Our focus now shifts to continuing to work with state leadership to determine how to provide the safest environment possible for fall sports.”
So collectively, what does all of this mean for fall sports? Well in short, Illinois may be in as good of a position as any state across the country to proceed with them.
The state endured the brute of its battle with COVID-19 in early-to-mid-May.
Since then, the state’s been on a steady decline prior to plateauing under the 1,000 daily new case mark for over the past month.
With the fall sports season just a month away and Phase 4 existing as the second-to-last step of Pritzker’s plan (with Phase 5 advancement calling for a vaccine or proven COVID treatment), these restrictions may become commonplace for fall sports. But after this summer, fans and student-athletes will likely be happy to just return to play.
Additional information pertaining to the guidelines can be found at www.ihsa.org.