State Puts Restrictions on High School, Youth Sports — IHSA Moves Football And Other Sports To Spring

State Puts Restrictions on High School, Youth Sports — IHSA Moves Football And Other Sports To Spring

Cross Country is one of the lower-risk sports, according to the state’s new guidelines. (CREDIT: Screenshot from IHSA website.)

If a new IHSA plan is approved by state health officials, there will be a fall season for high school sports in Illinois, but it won’t look like any fall season we’ve seen before after Gov. JB Pritzker’s announcement to put restrictions on school, youth and adult recreational sports.

During a noon news conference, Pritzker set guidance for youth and adult recreational sports, including school-based sports, travel clubs, private leagues and clubs, recreational leagues and centers, and park district sports programs.

(CREDIT: Screenshot from IHSA website.)

The Illinois High School Association announced later this afternoon that it would juggle the sports season in an effort to give all students a chance to compete in the sport of their choice. Scroll down and see the IHSA Facebook post below for details.

According to a state of Illinois news release, collegiate sports and professional leagues are not impacted by these restrictions.

The guidance was developed by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the Illinois State Board of Education following consultation with a number of stakeholders including the IHSA and the Illinois Elementary School Association.

The complete guidelines are available online at the state COVID-19 website:

“I know our hearts break when we hear the word ‘restrictions,’ especially when it comes to our children’s love for their sports. Whether this year is their first time on the court or it’s their senior season – this isn’t the news anyone wants to hear,” Pritzker said. “But with rising rates of spread of the virus, with rising positivity rates throughout Illinois and the United States, this is a situation where the toughest choice is also the safest one.”

(CREDIT: Screenshot from IHSA website.)

The newly released guidance categorizes sports into three risk levels — lower, medium, or higher — based on the amount of contact between athletes and their proximity during play.

The guidance sets four levels of play allowed based on current public health conditions.

  • In level 1, only no-contact practices and training are allowed.
  • In level 2, intra-team scrimmages are allowed with parental consent for minors but there can be no competitive play.
  • In level 3 intra-conference, intra-EMS-region or intra-league play is allowed and there may be state- or league-championship games allowed for low-risk sports only.
  • In level 4, tournaments, out-of-conference/league play, and out-of-state play are allowed. Championship games would also be allowed in level 4.

The guidance takes effect Saturday, Aug. 15.

Based on current conditions, lower risk sports can be played at levels 1, 2, and 3. Medium risk sports can be played at levels 1 and 2, and higher risk sports can be played at level 1.

Similar to other guidance, sports organizations should make temperature checks available and participants and coaches should monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and should not participate if they are experiencing illness.

If multiple individuals have symptoms or test positive, coaches or organizations should alert the local health department.  Sports organizers or coaches also must maintain attendance logs of participants for contact tracing purposes.

“Extracurricular activities and sports are an important part to a well-rounded education,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “This guidance is not meant to be a one-size-fits all approach and takes into account the inherent risk level of each individual sport and current public health conditions.”

Athletic equipment such as bats and hockey sticks should be cleaned between each use. Other equipment, including personal gear such as hockey, football, lacrosse, or other sports using helmets, pads, or gloves should only be used by one person and not shared.

Illinois first issued guidelines for youth and recreational sports in late May, when every region in the state advanced to Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan, marked by return to work, the reopening of retail as well as the return of specific recreational activities.

The latest guidelines make adjustments to temporarily halt competitive play for most higher to medium-risk sports pending further health progress, as well as to provide additional clarity on capacity limits and high school sports.

IHSA’s Plan

The Illinois High School Association announced it will move football, boys soccer and girls volley seasons to the spring in an effort to give students a chance to compete under the guidelines set today by Gov. JB Pritzker.

The plan was announced this afternoon (Wednesday, July 29) and has been sent to the Illinois Department of Health for final approval.

“This plan, like nearly every aspect of our current lives, remains fluid,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “Changes may come, and if they do, we will be agile while putting safety and students first. It was important that we provide a framework today for our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and officials to begin preparing for the 2020-21 school year.”

The COVID-19 pandemic led the Board to propose unprecedented scheduling changes for the 2020-21 school year. They include playing all sports over the course of truncated fall, winter, spring, and summer seasons. As a result, several team sports will shift to new seasons, including football, boys soccer, and girls volleyball moving from the fall to the spring.

“I applaud our Board of Directors for choosing a model that allows every student-athlete the opportunity for a modified season,” said Anderson. “Based on our recent conversations, it is our expectation that today’s plan meets all of IDPH’s safety guidelines and will be approved.”

IHSA boys and girls golf, girls tennis, cross country and girls swimming & diving will remain as fall sports, and can proceed to start on Aug. 10 as scheduled.

Per Pritzker’s announcement on Wednesday, fall sports will begin with competition limited to conference opponents and other schools in the same general geographical area. Schools will be provided more details in the coming week about the scheduling limits, and scheduling will continue to be assessed throughout each season. The condensed 2020-21 season dates will be as follows (see chart below to see where each sport falls):

  • Fall: Aug. 10 to Oct. 24
  • Winter: Nov. 16 to Feb.13
  • Spring: Feb. 15 to May 1
  • Summer: May 3 to June 26

SOURCE: state of Illinois news release, IHSA news release

IHSA Facebook Post