Concern mounts for high school sports

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Illinois High School Association Executive Director Craig Anderson and members of IHSA and Illinois Elementary School Association staff met virtually with Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Deputy Governor Jesse Ruiz and IDPH Chief of Staff Justin DeWitt last Wednesday to discuss the process of moving toward the resumption of high school sports in the state.

IHSA and IESA leadership used the meeting to reintroduce recommended mitigations from the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, as well as to seek understanding on any preliminary insight IDPH may have related to the return of interscholastic sports. The IHSA also asked IDPH leadership to review the risk levels of all remaining sports, with consideration for lowering some sports from their current risk levels.

“We believe that there is both data and science that validates the idea that we can safely conduct sports,” Anderson said. “We have seen it work in other states and believe it can in Illinois if we utilize the mitigations provided by IDPH and the IHSA SMAC. Students are already leaving or participating out of state on weekends. We believe that competing for their high school remains the safest venue for participation.”

All IHSA sports remain on pause at the moment. Low-risk sports may not begin until the state returns to Phase 4 in the All Sports Policy. The IHSA Board of Directors are scheduled to meet again Jan. 13.

“With no specific IDPH timeline or statistical benchmarks established for the return of sports and the calendar shrinking, putting together a puzzle that allows for all sports to be played becomes increasingly improbable. We continue to urge all residents of our state to be diligent in their efforts to adhere to safety guidelines, as a lower positivity rate remains the key to athletics returning,” Anderson said.

Boys and girls basketball and bowling were initially to take place in a condensed season that stretched from Nov. 16 through Feb. 13. That, obviously, has not transpired.

Football, volleyball and boys soccer are set for a spring season that is scheduled to run from Feb. 15 through May 1, while baseball, softball, girls soccer, track and field, boys tennis and wrestling are supposed to have a new summer season from April 19 through June 26.

Of course, this is all in doubt while the pandemic continues and the state shows no signs of being willing to ease restrictions placed upon high school sports.

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