IHSA approves return of sports

by Mindy Carls correspondent

The Illinois High School Association has approved a schedule for winter, spring and summer sports, starting with the return of basketball games next week.

Besides basketball, other winter sports able to resume are boys swimming and diving, dance, cheerleading, bowling and girls gymnastics. Their seasons will end Saturday, March 13.

Among winter sports, only dance and cheerleading will have a state series because teams send recorded performances to be judged. For dance, the state series will be Saturdays, Feb. 27 and March 6, and for cheerleading, March 6 and Friday, March 12.

Dates for spring sports are:

• Boys soccer, first practice March 1, last match April 17.

• Football, first practice March 3, first game March 19, last game April 24.

• Volleyball, first practice March 8, last game April 24.

• Boys gymnastics, first practice March 15, last contest May 22.

Summer sports are:

• Baseball, girls soccer, softball, boys tennis, track and field, first practice April 15, last contest June 19.

• Wrestling first practice April 19, last contest June 12.

Except for football, teams in spring and summer sports must have seven practices on different days before they can play a game. Football players must have 12 practices, although athletes coming in from basketball need only 10 practices.

The IHSA is considering a state series for only the traditional spring sports — baseball, softball, girls soccer, boys tennis, track and field — which had barely begun their seasons when the pandemic struck last year.

“The board wants to do everything in their power to prevent spring sports from going two consecutive years with no postseason IHSA play,” said Executive Director Craig Anderson, a native of Cambridge.

“There are obviously no guarantees,” he said. “Postseason could mean being limited to a regional or sectional level of competition, but we have not ruled out the idea of playing a full state tournament in these traditional spring sports if possible. The overwhelming feedback we have heard from athletic directors and coaches was that returning to play in all sports should be the main goal.”

The IHSA board met Wednesday, Jan. 27, to determine schedules for the rest of the year.

“Ultimately, the board adhered to its stated goals throughout the pandemic: providing an opportunity for every IHSA student-athlete to compete safely this year and maximizing opportunities for traditional IHSA spring sports after they lost their entire season a year ago,” Anderson said.

The board faced an impossible task, he said.

“They were conscientious in considering every possibility and I believe their decisions today are a positive step for the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of our students. We are excited to channel our energy into creating as many positive experiences for Illinois high school students as we can between now and the end of this extraordinary school year.”

IHSA guidelines require all student-athletes to participate in masks, with the exception of swimming and diving, gymnasts on an apparatus and outdoor events where social distancing can occur. Also, all game personnel not participating in the contest must wear masks and adhere to social distancing.