IHSA announces changes to sports seasons amidst COVID-19 concerns

High School Sports

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors addressed what the next few sports seasons would look like for high schools across the state.

In a press release, IHSA announced that the fall season, Aug. 10 – Oct. 24, would consist of:

  • Golf (Boys and Girls)
  • Girls Tennis
  • Cross Country (Boys and Girls)
  • Girls Swimming

The winter season, Nov. 16 – Feb. 13, will look like this:

  • Basketball (Boys and Girls)
  • Wrestling
  • Boys Swimming & Diving
  • Competitive Cheerleading
  • Competitive Dance
  • Bowling (Boys and Girls)
  • Girls Gymnastics

The spring season, Feb. 15 – May 1, will consist of:

  • Football
  • Boys Soccer
  • Girls Volleyball
  • Cross Country (Boys and Girls)
  • Girls Swimming & Diving
  • Girls Badminton
  • Boys Gymnastics
  • Water Polo (Boys and Girls)

Finally, the summer season, May 3 – June 26, will include:

  • Baseball
  • Softball
  • Track & Field (Boys and Girls)
  • Girls Soccer
  • Boys Volleyball
  • Lacrosse (Boys and Girls)
  • Boys Tennis

The decision was made just hours after Gov. J.B. Pritzker held a press conference issuing new guidelines for sports in the state.

“The Board believes this plan offers the most realistic chance for student-athletes to participate in interscholastic sports while balancing the challenges of a new academic setting and IDPH Guidelines,” said Erie High School Principal and IHSA Board President Tim McConnell.

“We are an education-based athletic association, and school has to come first. By delaying the majority of the team sports in the fall, it will allow our schools and students the chance to acclimate to what will be, for many, a totally new educational experience. We will do our best to try to give every student-athlete the opportunity for a season this school year.”

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said the plan will be flexible to address changes in the COVID-19 pandemic as it progresses in the state.

“Changes may come, and if they do, we will be agile while putting safety and students first,” Anderson said. “It was important that we provide a framework today for our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and officials to begin preparing for the 2020-21 school year.”

Anderson said the decision today will be met with a mix of emotions.

“Our staff and Board have heard from thousands of people over the past few weeks with ideas, opinions, and proposals on how we should proceed,” Anderson said. “We respect and understand their passion, because we share in it. It is a great reminder that if we want high school sports to return to normal, we all need to do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Regarding football, the season will allow for practice to occur starting Feb. 15. The first day of contest play is scheduled for March 5.

Meanwhile, in bordering states, Iowa announced a 7-week season with the first football practice taking place on Aug. 10. Kentucky football practice will start Aug. 24 with games starting Sept. 11. Wisconsin announced a delayed start for the fall season of sports.

The chart below outlines the new IHSA schedule for the 2020-21 school year:

Sport/ActivityIDPH RiskTraditional Season2020-21 SeasonStart DateEnd Date
Boys/Girls GolfLower FallFallAugust 10Oct. 17
Girls TennisLower FallFallAugust 10Oct. 17
Boys/Girls Cross CountryMedium FallFallAugust 10Oct. 17
Girls Swimming & DivingMedium FallFallAugust 10Oct. 17
Boys & Girls BasketballMediumWinterWinterNov. 16Feb. 13
WrestlingHigherWinterWinterNov. 16Feb. 13
Boys Swimming & DivingMedium WinterWinterNov. 16Feb. 13
CheerleadingHigher WinterWinterNov. 16Feb. 13
DanceHigher WinterWinterNov. 16Feb. 13
Boys/Girls BowlingLower WinterWinterNov. 16Feb. 13
Girls GymnasticsLowerWinterWinterNov. 16Feb. 13
FootballHigher FallSpringFeb. 15May 1
Boys SoccerMedium FallSpringFeb. 15May 1
Girls VolleyballMedium  FallSpringFeb. 15May 1
Girls BadmintonLowerSpringSpringFeb. 15May 1
Boys GymnasticsLowerSpringSpringFeb. 15May 1
Boys/Girls Water PoloMediumSpringSpringFeb. 15May 1
BaseballLower SpringSummerMay 3June 26
SoftballLower SpringSummerMay 3June 26
Boys/Girls Track & FieldLowerSpringSummerMay 3June 26
Girls SoccerMediumSpringSummerMay 3June 26
Boys VolleyballMedium SpringSummerMay 3June 26
Boys/Girls LacrosseHigherSpringSummerMay 3June 26
Boys TennisLowerSpringSummerMay 3June 26

In addition to the plan, the Board extended the current Phase 4 Return To Play Guidelines. Those guidelines will allow sports slated to be played in the winter, spring, and summer seasons to receive an additional 20 days of contact for schools between Sept. 7 and Oct. 31 following IDPH Phase 4 Guidelines.

The Board confirmed that IHSA by-laws do not prevent schools that are conducting remote learning from participating in IHSA sports and activities. Local schools and districts will have the final say on participation, regardless of the learning plan a high school is utilizing.

They discussed IHSA activities for the 2020-21 school year, but no action was taken on the matter. IHSA’s activity offerings include Bass Fishing, Chess, Debate, Drama & Group Interpretation, Individual Events, Journalism, Music & Scholastic Bowl.

Further details for the sports seasons and practice limitations will be released to schools following IDPH approval of the plan.

IHSA officials say the next step is to look towards sports-specific guidelines.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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