High schools welcome back more athletes as contact days begin

  • Senior Becca Ford wears a mask as the Geneva volleyball team practices on the first day of allowed contact days Tuesday.

      Senior Becca Ford wears a mask as the Geneva volleyball team practices on the first day of allowed contact days Tuesday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Geneva's girls volleyball teams stay socially distanced during practice on the first day of allowed contact days Tuesday.

      Geneva's girls volleyball teams stay socially distanced during practice on the first day of allowed contact days Tuesday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Senior Anna Loberg and her teammates wear masks as the Geneva girls volleyball team practices on the first day of allowed contact days Tuesday.

      Senior Anna Loberg and her teammates wear masks as the Geneva girls volleyball team practices on the first day of allowed contact days Tuesday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Junior Taylor Tinnes watches the ball as the Geneva volleyball team practices on the first day of allowed contact days Tuesday.

      Junior Taylor Tinnes watches the ball as the Geneva volleyball team practices on the first day of allowed contact days Tuesday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Naperville North football coach Sean Drendel keeps an eye on his players to make sure they're properly distanced during the team's first organized practice this summer. The Illinois High School Association is allowing 20 contact days in September and October.

      Naperville North football coach Sean Drendel keeps an eye on his players to make sure they're properly distanced during the team's first organized practice this summer. The Illinois High School Association is allowing 20 contact days in September and October. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/9/2020 7:07 AM

After a month of golfers, swimmers, cross country runners and tennis players back in action, schools welcomed more athletes back Tuesday.

The Illinois High School Association is allowing 20 contact days for every other sport that started Tuesday and goes through the end of October.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

What specifically will be done in those sports varies depending on the risk level each sport has been deemed. High risk sports like football will be doing a lot of strength and conditioning while low risk sports like baseball can do much more, all the way up to holding intrasquad scrimmages.

"One hundred percent it's a positive," Geneva athletic director Dave Carli said. "It's a great opportunity to start building those relationships with those student-athletes you might not have seen for awhile. Gives an opportunity for those teams to get together."

Just as with the different ways students are learning in various school districts, the contact days won't look the same at every school.

At Antioch, Sequoit athletes in outdoor sports are returning in September, then the indoor sports like volleyball and basketball will have their contact days in October. Most sports will have three contact days a week.

Antioch athletic director Steve Schoenfelder said all athletes will go through a wellness check with the trainer before practice. He and Lakes athletic director Kurt Rowells presented their plan for district approval.

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Antioch students returned to the classroom, six in a room, with a hybrid format Tuesday. Schoenfelder said that was an important step in allowing the contact days.

Fremd is in the process of getting district approval for contact days; Fremd AD David Dick said he is unsure the actual start date.

Dick is hoping the contact days will continue what was a positive experience this summer.

"I think the coaches and athletes had a great time with that," Dick said. "If nothing else athletes and coaches got to reconnect in person. That's really what we are trying to recreate with the state allowing these contact days in the fall."

Geneva, whose students are back at school on a hybrid schedule, started back in full force Tuesday. Carli set up a Google spread sheet to work out facility and times with all his coaches in every sport.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Carli set up practices on different dates to help multisport athletes, such as a football and baseball player, be able to attend both. He and his staff have been instructed on cleaning guidelines in their facilities, and coaches work on what is allowed in their specific sport -- like skill development in basketball, with masks.

"A lot of schools didn't have summer camps," Carli said. "This gives everyone an opportunity to do something in the fall.

"The big key now is adapt to different things. Nothing is set in stone. We've got to adapt and make the changes and be thankful and blessed we are able to do something, and that's the message we are giving here at Geneva."

Dick said Fremd learning remotely complicates the contact days. He said all five District 211 schools -- Fremd, Palatine, Conant, Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates -- sketched out plans for the administration.

"Challenges with us being remote, we have a low number of kids in the building now, contact days for indoor sports you are talking about the sheer volume of kids that will be on campus. That's the biggest hurdle we are trying to get over logistically," Dick said.

"Our coaches have been really good in that it may not be what they want to do but they have adapted to what the guidelines of the state and IDPH have provided. They maximize their opportunities to work with their athletes on specific skills."

Schoenfelder spent this weekend in Iowa watching volleyball and football games. He's also traveled to Wisconsin and is using what he's learned from those states to help sports return in Illinois.

Schoenfelder also visited Iowa this summer when they held state baseball and softball seasons and tournaments. That came at a time the rest of the country had completely shut down high school sports.

"I come out here (Iowa) to see how they administrate their games. You always steal your best ideas," Schoenfelder said.

"Iowa showed with baseball and softball you can get through it if you are doing the right thing. It will be interesting to see what happens with Iowa football and Wisconsin football, and volleyball. If you make it through with minimal cases maybe we can show we can try to get started with basketball."

The first step is safe and successful contact days -- whatever lies ahead for any sport the rest of the school year.

"I think coaches know what's on the horizon is uncertain," Dick said. "They do not know what may or may not happen with their particular season. But I don't think that's in the forefront of what they are doing. Their ability to reach out and connect with their athletes during this pandemic is uplifting for the athletes and uplifting for the coaches to see that reconnection happen. And that's what we are trying to stress with these contact days."

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