WCIA — After more than 10 months of waiting for thousands of high school athletes across the state, they finally have a timeline for when their sport can return to competition.
Boys’ and girls’ basketball is set to start immediately and run through March 13th, with no state series. Practices are already ongoing for many schools. Only seven official workouts will be required before teams can play a game, that’s down from 12 that was originally announced earlier this month.
“It’s pretty crazy,” St. Joseph-Ogden sophomore guard Ty Pence said. “This is what we’ve been working for since October. Every guy in this gym, we’ve been trying to put the work in just for this moment. And for it to actually happen is great for us.
“I knew there was a meeting, I just wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” St. Joseph-Ogden senior guard Lukas Hutcherson said. “I knew they were trying to schedule something. It just put that much more meaning into the practice. We’re getting ready now, it’s exciting.”
Athletic directors and coaches are kicking scheduling into high gear, for both games and practice time.
“We’re not even signed up for gym’s yet because we didn’t know when we were going to start playing, who was going to be first and who was going to have priority,” St. Joseph-Ogden basketball coach Kiel Duval said. “Hopefully tonight we’ll contact the AD and get stuff set up for tomorrow, and Friday, and Saturday. Hopefully by the end of next week and the week after that we’ll be ready to play a game.”
Football practice will overlap the end of basketball season, starting March 3rd and playing through April 24th. The first football games are set for March 19th. Football players have to practice 12 days before they’re eligible to play in a game, per IHSA acclimatization rules. For athletes going from basketball into football, they will need to participate in practice on 10 different days prior to their first contest.
“We’re excited and we’ll line up to practice, be ready to play,” Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley athletic director and football coach Mike Allen said. “We know that it can change, any time, any day, but we’re going to make the most of the time we do get. We’re going to control what we can control, and we’re going to have fun with it.”
Girls’ volleyball will also begin soon, starting March 8th through April 24th, but will also not have a state series. Boys’ soccer is now March 1-April 17, with girls’ soccer April 5-June 19. Wrestling is planned for April 19-June 12.
Schools in Phase 4 will be limited to no more than 50 fans per game for indoor sports. Each district has the ability to impose further limitations though. For Tier 1 regions, a maximum of 25 are allowed, with no fans in attendance for Tier 2 regions. The 50 person limit does not apply to the players, coaches or event personnel.
There are 20 remaining IHSA sports and activities remaining on the calendar for rest of the school year. Four are in the high risk category: football, basketball, wrestling and lacrosse. Several others are in the moderate risk category including soccer, volleyball and water polo. All remaining sports and activities are in the lower risk category.
“I think it’s a realistic plan for our schools to engage their students while their could be some issues with some regions being able to play certain sports, that’s something we’ll have to consider if they couldn’t play in the timeline that our board approved and obviously we’ll cross that bridge when you get there but really no conversation about canceling any of our sports,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said.
All high school sports were given the green light to play last Friday in an unexpected move from Gov. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The outlook was bleak for high risk sports such as basketball, football and wrestling until the change was announced. Schools must be in a Phase 4 region to compete, meaning things could certainly change going forward depending on the COVID-19 numbers across the state.
All sports that are out-of-season can conduct contact days through June 4. Contact days are limited to three days per week per sport with a maximum of six hours of contact per week with no interscholastic competition.