Return to Play: IHSA Shuffles Schedule to Put Prep Athletes Back in the Game


PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — High School sports are back on the calendar, even if that calendar looks a little different than usual.

The Illinois High School Association announced a plan Wednesday that allows prep sports to return in Illinois for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shut down athletics in March.

Football, boys soccer and girls volleyball move from the fall to the spring in the biggest shakeup on the 2020-2021 sports calendar. Those sports will begin practicing in February and start playing games in March.

“This plan, like nearly every aspect of our current lives, remains fluid,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “Changes may come, and if they do, we will be agile while putting safety and students first. 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.”

Area football coaches saw this coming and are accepting the calendar change that could potentially save the season.

“To be honest, if we started this fall and we got shut down, then it would probably be over and you’d have no chance at anything,” said Richwoods football coach Roland Brown. “I say at least this way, they are trying to give us a chance to go into a season where we know we can complete whatever whole season it might be.”

The new schedule calls for football practice to begin Feb. 15, the first games to be played March. 5. The season would likely be seven games long, instead of nine with playoffs to be determined.

“Pushing it back, staying safe, is you’re number one priority,” said Dee-Mack football coach Cody Myers. “And then have an opportunity to play all your sports in a safer environment is the best thing that can happen to the Illinois High School Association right now.”

Sports seasons are being shortened across the board. The IHSA considers this a four-sport season school year: fall, winter, spring and summer.

The winter sports are basketball, wrestling, boys swimming, cheerleading, dance, bowling and girls gymnastics. Boys soccer and girls volleyball move to the spring joining football, badminton, boys gymnastics and water polo.

The summer sports season begins with practice May 3 and ends on June 26. Summer sports are baseball, softball, track, girls soccer, boys volleyball, lacrosse and boys tennis.

“I commend the IHSA, their board and the member schools for really thinking about this and coming up with a plan that makes good sense,” said Notre Dame soccer coach Mike Bare. “For us, from a soccer perspective, moving it to the spring season gives us the best chance to get in come competition and potentially a state tournament series.”

Golf, cross country, girls swimming and girls tennis will stay as fall sports. The cross country runners, many of whom had track seasons canceled in the spring, are excited to compete this fall.

“All I want is a season because we didn’t have a track season,” said Dunlap junior Isaiah Hamann. “We had two (indoor) meets. I just want to be able to run.”

State finals events are to be determined in each sport. Fall sports competitions are scheduled to finish Oct. 17

“We want to get out there are run again,” said Bloomington senior Kaitlin Skeate. “I just want to get another chance to put the Raider jersey on and run again.”

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