Start date for winter sports up in the air after IHSA board hits pause
The Illinois High School Association board of directors Thursday issued a pause on all winter sports and activities by Friday, in order to maintain compliance with the most recent mitigations issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
"All IHSA sports and activities will cease by (Friday) for what we hope is a short-term pause," said IHSA executive director Craig Anderson. "Given the rising COVID-19 cases in our state and region, we support the governor's mitigations and believe it is imperative for everyone in the state to do their part in following them so that we can return to high school sports participation as soon as possible."
The board will revisit the status of winter sports at their update discussion Dec. 2, and again at their regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 14 if necessary.
"Taking into account the current state mitigations, the board believes that early to mid-December will be the most reasonable target to review the status of winter IHSA sports and activities," said Anderson. "The board is sensitive to the scheduling difficulties these delays create for athletic directors and coaches.
"However, our experiences this summer and fall lead us to believe that setting arbitrary start dates hinders the process even more. We realize it may seem redundant, but we have to preach patience as we await more data and direction from the state."
While some schools allowed gymnastics, swimming, bowling, competitive cheerleading and dance practices to begin Monday, many others have already suspended winter sports activities as they awaited word from the Thursday board meeting.
The board was steadfast in its desire to remind all athletes and athletic programs that adhering to the mitigations is vital to the hopes of safely playing high school sports as soon as possible.
"I believe there is a misconception that IHSA and nonschool athletic programs have an adversarial relationship," said Anderson. "In my time at the IHSA, I have not found that to be the case at all. More so, I think there is a mutual respect for the opportunities that each provide for athletes. IHSA schools have been exemplary in adhering to state regulations throughout this pandemic and we are calling upon nonschool programs to hold themselves to that same standard. As school and nonschool sports temporarily cease in Illinois, and throughout the Midwest, it is a great reminder that putting the health and safety of our fellow citizens at the forefront in the short-term will allow all levels of athletics to thrive in the long-term."
The board provided the following participation clarifications to member schools:
• Winter season start date: Given the timing of the governor's new mitigations, Nov. 16 will not be recognized as the start date of the winter season, regardless of whether winter sport teams conducted any official tryouts or practices. A new start date will be established for each sport once winter sports can be conducted again.
• Conditioning and weight training: Conditioning and weight training before and after school are paused. Local schools will decide if conditioning and weight training programs that are a part of their academic curricula continue or are ceased.
• Open gyms: Are paused and cannot be conducted at this time.
• Outdoor workouts: Outdoor workouts may be conducted in any sport in groups of 10 or less with masks and social distancing. Coaches are counted toward the 10. Use of sport-specific equipment is allowable with proper sanitizing practices.
• One-on-one skill work: Per Tier 3 Resurgence Mitigations and with school approval, one-on-one skill work between a coach and student-athlete is permitted for winter sports only, but is limited to one coach and one student-athlete per facility.
• Activities: Practices and competitions may only be conducted virtually.
• Non-school participation: All sports organizations in the state, school or nonschool, have been directed to abide by the governor's mitigations. IHSA coaches cannot organize nonschool participation in any fashion.