“It’s been a waiting game”

Sports

GCMS athletic director Mike Allen anxious to hear plan from IHSA, IPHD

WCIA — Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley football coach and athletic director Mike Allen has been going kayaking a lot lately. It’s a way for the longtime Falcons leader to clear his mind, get away from the reality that there are still so many unknowns.

“You have your ups and downs as an AD, as a coach, as a parent, you have your good days and bad days,” Allen said. “You look for that little bone so we know where we’re going and what we’re going to be able to do.”

That bone hasn’t come yet for Allen or other athletic directors and coaches around the state. The IHSA is waiting for its final plan to be approved by the Illinois Public Health Department. That is taking longer than expected.

“I recognize that IHSA schools, students, and coaches are anxious for the IHSA Return To Play Guidelines to be released,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said in a statement on Tuesday. “In many ways, they represent the first step in a return to normalcy as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee was diligent in their development of these guidelines, and we have worked in good faith with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to make sure our plan optimizes safety for high school students in Illinois.

“IDPH approval is vital in this process, and we understand and respect that they have pressing statewide issues to resolve that take precedence over high school sports. Quarantine has been a test of patience, and now we ask our IHSA community for just a bit more of it as we collaborate with IDPH to finalize these Return To Play Guidelines. We understand that the return of athletics is important to our high school students from a physical, mental, and emotional perspective, but we also recognize that we must be in full accord with IDPH to maximize safety and help avoid any setbacks in reuniting our students with their coaches.”

For Allen, he’s doing his best to stay positive, even though that hasn’t necessarily always been easy. The first summer contact day was supposed to be Monday.

“It’s been a waiting game,” Allen said. “It’s been tough but you want to remain positive. And until they say something different, we’re playing. Until they tell us it’s been canceled, you have to prepare and be prepared as if we’re going to have a season.”

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