IHSA begins ‘return to play’ process

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Area high schools are working to get their student-athletes back into playing shape after the Illinois High School Association announced last week the first step in returning to participation.

The IHSA approved what it termed as “Return to Play” guidelines within the current structure of Governor Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

These guidelines were developed by the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and have been approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“The IHSA return to play guidelines offer some important first steps in allowing student-athletes to reacclimate both physically and mentally to athletics, but more importantly, they allow each school to assess their own individual situation and determine if and when they want to proceed,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said Friday. 

An IHSA member high school may not conduct workouts under these guidelines unless they have school district approval and are located in a health region that is currently in Phase 3 under Restore Illinois. 

All regions of Illinois are currently in Phase 3.

The IHSA said these guidelines are aimed at student-athlete acclimatization and general physical fitness and will not include any skill of sport training elements. The guidelines detail allowable activities for student-athletes and coaches as well as safety precautions and social distancing that must be adhered to “in order to maximize safety.”

Waterloo Athletic Director Mitch North said Waterloo High School will “strictly adhere” to guidelines issued by the IHSA to begin getting student-athletes back in action. 

“This phase is essentially just organized conditioning,” North said. “We are working on creating a schedule for the weight room, fitness center and athletic fields and figuring out the logistics of how to give as many of our student-athletes an opportunity to work out with their coaches and teammates as possible while maintaining social distancing and disinfecting all shared surfaces. There are obviously a lot of challenges to work around in order to make this happen.”

Columbia Athletic Director Scott Horner said he is in the process of gathering input from Columbia High School coaches before moving forward.

“Our coaches will submit a detailed plan on how they will meet the guidelines put forth by the IHSA and I will view and approve and then we will proceed,” Horner said. “Since this is not mandatory, parents will submit a consent form stating they are OK with their athlete proceeding in training during Stage 1 of Return to Play.”

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