IHSA makes significant adjustments to sport guidelines
The Illinois High School Association board of directors met virtually on Monday and approved several updates to the IHSA Return To Activities guidelines, while also providing guidance on the IHSA's independent team participation rule for the 2020-21 school year.
The board updated its Return To Activities guidelines by waiving the 2020-21 season limitations for winter, spring, and summer sports that would have restricted those sports to no more than two contests per week. The winter, spring, and summer seasons will now revert to their normal season game limitations as dictated by IHSA bylaws.
"We have preached that this school year will be fluid, and the changes made by the board today are a good example of that," said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. "When the IHSA's initial Return To Activities guidelines were established, the limitation of two contests per week felt like a constraint that would help limit exposure. However, given how well our state is handling the pandemic, and the lack of setbacks in the fall sports we have conducted so far, there was a consensus that we could move forward with allowing schools to schedule winter, spring, and summer sports without further restrictions."
Additionally, the IHSA's summer season will begin two weeks earlier than initially announced. With Monday's modification, summer sports (baseball, softball, track & field, girls soccer, lacrosse, boys tennis) can now begin practices on April 19 and games on May 3.
"We understood that when the modified schedule for 2020-21 was released that the summer sport season coaches would take some umbrage with it," said Anderson. "However, we also knew that summer was the season that we had the most time and flexibility to work with, so we preached patience. We are glad to be able to provide some relief by creating the option to start two weeks earlier."
The board also reviewed a request from Highland High School that sought an exemption to IHSA bylaw 3.100, which governs independent team participation. Highland sought an exemption to the rule during 2020-21 for the sports of volleyball, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, and softball, which would allow student-athletes in those sports to simultaneously participate on their IHSA school team and on a nonschool team. The current bylaw prevents participation on a school and nonschool team at the same time in the same sport. The board elected not to provide an exemption to the rule.
"There was a lengthy and spirited discussion on if we should provide an exemption to this rule given the unprecedented nature of the school year," said Anderson. "The board understands both sides of the argument and has heard from passionate advocates for each scenario. Ultimately, concerns over safety and equity left them uncomfortable with providing an exemption to this rule. They understand it could lead to some difficult decisions between participating on a school or nonschool team. Fundamentally, the nature and mission of the IHSA is to provide participation opportunities to all students. The board agreed that if a student-athlete chooses to leave their school team for a nonschool team, it simply creates an opportunity for another student to step in and fill that role."