Decision on high school sports needs to be made now
When Illinois High School Association executive director Craig Anderson and members of the board of directors meet with officials from the department of public health and state board of education Friday, everyone is hoping the end result will be that the wait is over.
From athletes to coaches to athletic directors to school administrators to parents, everyone has been on pins and needles to know the fate of fall sports.
It comes down to some complex decisions.
We've established throughout the COVID-19 pandemic how much we all want sports back. We've also made it clear the No. 1 priority is the safety and health of everyone.
Across the country states are rolling out plans for either forging ahead with fall sports on schedule, delaying the start of the season a couple weeks to a month, or canceling the fall season.
Those states -- and there are roughly a dozen at last check -- which have decided to push their high school sports seasons to a January start have come up with various plans how to play all three seasons. Shortened seasons and modified schedules are a part of almost every plan.
In Illinois, several models of how to play three seasons starting in January have been presented to the IHSA, and Anderson said at least a couple of those plans will be discussed Friday.
One thing that is abundantly clear: It's looking more like any official high sports practices, especially in contact sports (football, volleyball and soccer) beginning on Aug. 10, which is the scheduled day for the first practices, won't happen.
Positive COVID-19 cases are spiking in many parts of the state and across the country. Whether to play is not an easy decision. The delay in that decision has been done with health and safety at the forefront. Focus on the present and the future.
The present is that while school districts make plans to reopen, sports summer camps have proceeded with restrictions, which include no contact drills and everyone wearing face coverings indoors, as well as outdoors if they are not actively participating.
Until the state agencies lift those restrictions that's how it's going to remain.
The future is what we all wait for a decision on.
Will that decision be to lift the restrictions and forge ahead as scheduled?
Will it be to delay the start of the season until, say, October, as some states are doing, and then have shortened seasons for all sports?
Or, will it be to follow the course other states are taking and delay all sports until January? If that's the decision it would be made with the hope the spread of the virus has slowed and more progress made toward a vaccine or effective treatment, which would allow Illinois to move to Phase 5 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's reopening plan.
A January start would allow the IHSA and athletic administrators more time to do all the things they would need to do to conduct a meaningful sports year. What we do not want is a season starting then shutting down due to a spike in positive cases.
Tough decisions. But decisions that need to be made thoughtfully with medical guidance.
And, decisions that can no longer be delayed.