Finally some good news for high school sports in Illinois

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With the metro east moving to Tier 2 COVID mitigations in the state’s Restore Illinois Plan on Friday, it joined other regions in finally being able to allow some school sports activities.

The metro east still needs to reach Tier 1 mitigations and then Phase 4 before all sports are allowed. Some regions of the state are already in Phase 4.

“We just moved to Tier 2. This means that our low-risk sports of bowling, cheer, baseball, softball, track and tennis would be able to start playing games in our conference and region only,” Waterloo School District Athletic Director Brian Unger said. “Our medium-risk sports of soccer and volleyball are allowed to practice and have intrasquad games against themselves. Our high-risk sports of basketball, football and wrestling can have non-contact practices.”

The IHSA Board met Jan. 27 to set season dates for the remainder of the school year. For more information on that, click here.

“I am very excited that our athletes get to start practicing again and return to some sense of normalcy,” Unger said. “Hopefully the numbers in our region continue to trend down and we can enter Tier 1 and Phase 4 soon.”

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson sent a letter to high schools clarifying the impact of Friday’s announcement.

“The most significant update involves high-risk sports in regions that have improved from Tier 1 to Phase 4,” Anderson said.

All low-risk winter sports must conduct practices on seven days prior to their first contest, Anderson stressed. Basketball teams must conduct 12 days of practice prior to their first contest. 

Fall, spring, and summer sports could begin contact days Jan. 25 based on the allowances of that region and local school district approval.

“Masks must be worn in practice and competition,” Anderson stressed. “Social distancing should be adhered to for bench players and game personnel.”

As for spectators, Anderson said Phase 4 regions can have a maximum of 50 spectators, Tier 1 regions can have a maximum of 25 spectators and Tier 2 regions cannot have spectators. These numbers do not include players, coaches, officials and other necessary game personnel.

In order to move out of tier mitigations, regions must meet certain metrics of case positivity, have staffed intensive care unit bed availability greater than 20 percent for three consecutive days and sustained decline in hospitalized COVID-19 patients on a seven-day rolling average.

Junior high sports

On the heels of Friday’s announcement by the state, the Southern Illinois Junior High School Athletic Association released a modified sports calendar for the remainder of the school year.

“We are excited that our junior high athletes will be getting back to practices and competitions soon,” Unger said.

Metro east junior high volleyball teams can only practice for now, but once the region moves to Tier 1, matches in this medium-risk sport can take place beginning Feb. 1.

Junior high boys basketball has started practices under Tier 2 guidelines and will also begin regular season games Feb. 1 once the region goes to Phase 4.

Basketball is a high-risk sport and must move into Phase 4 in order to have competitions. 

Girls basketball at the junior high level has been moved to March 8.

Junior high track will start meets April 24.  Track is considered a low-risk sport and will be able to start on time as long as the region remains at least at Tier 2.

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