IHSA to allow cross country, golf this fall
Football planned as a spring sport
By: JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
The Illinois High School Association Board of Directors met for a special meeting July 29 and announced its intended plans for the 2020-21 school year.
The COVID-19 pandemic led the board to propose unprecedented scheduling changes. Those include playing all sports over the course of truncated seasons. As a result, several team sports will shift to new times of the year, including football, boys soccer and girls volleyball.
According to Governor J.B. Pritzker, fall sports will begin with competition limited to conference opponents and other schools in the same general geographical area. Schools will be provided more details this week about the scheduling limits, and scheduling will continue to be assessed throughout each season.
Cross country and golf will take place in the fall as orginally scheduled, beginning Aug. 10 and ending Oct. 17.
“I’m beyond grateful for the athletes that are able to get out and do stuff right now,” said Carlinville cross country coach Charlie Helton. “This will definitely give us something to strive for and it certainly doesn’t hurt to exercise in order to better your overall health.”
In terms of meets, both golf and cross country are expected to feature smaller capacities in terms of total participants and invitees.
“Unless something changes, we’re looking at three-team situations including us at every meet,” said Helton. “There may be some mixed feelings everyone has about that format but this can honestly give us a more cognitive idea of what our strengths and weaknesses are compared to other teams like Litchfield, Staunton, Roxana, etc.”
Helton also believes that this style will help his athletes understand the sport better.
“If you’re in a large meet, it can be difficult to explain how the scoring system works,” said Helton. “If you’re ahead of somebody, then they pass you up and you see that the team lost as a whole by one point, that was the difference. It can be easy to leave that unnoticed, so I think having more specific runners to focus on within a smaller wave will increase everyone’s competitive nature of making every stride count. That’s what I’ve always tried to teach on a yearly basis.”
Basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, dancing and bowling will make up the winter season from Nov. 16 to Feb. 13.
Football, boys’ soccer and girls’ volleyball are scheduled for the spring season, beginning Feb. 15 and lasting until May 1.
Although they are a long shot from actually happening, several ideas have come up for the CHS football program that included potential 7-on-7 intramural duals and a skills competition similar to the National Football League draft combine if the overall number of cases drop low enough.
“We’re kind of thinking outside the box at this point but these could potentially be beneficial in helping our athletes maintain a competitive edge if everything starts heading in the right direction,” said Carlinville football coach Chad Easterday. “If we can stay social-distanced while doing these activities, the kids would be working out for a reason and that’s what I like. It would definitely be for a good cause.”
Baseball, softball, track and girls’ soccer will round out the year during the summer dates of May 3 through June 26.
State series tournament decisions will be made on a sport-by-sport basis as each season progresses. Changes could include potential culminations within IHSA state tournaments following regional or sectional rounds, or the seeking of other non-traditional means needed to conduct events.
“Everyone, including myself, is still sifting through all the information because there have been lots of changes happening,” said Carlinville boys’ soccer coach Tim Johnson. “The good news is that the possibility of us having a season is still there. We’re excited that it didn’t get canceled.”
The current Phase 4 Return To Play Guidelines have been extended, which allowed non-fall sports teams an additional 20 days of contact between Sep. 7 and Oct. 31.
“We hope to make full use of that opportunity and do what we can to get our kids ready,” said Easterday. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get a football out on the field, make contact with some workout bags and stay in shape so everyone can get at least some experience for training purposes during the fall.”
“I’m not sure if we’re going to use every single day the IHSA has given us, but we’re definitely going to participate in at least a large majority of them,” Johnson said. “Even though we have to wait an extra couple of months for our season to start, we at have more time to prepare.”
Carlinville coaches, such as Easterday and Johnson, are additionally encouraging players to try something new during this time instead of waiting around for their specified season.
“Maybe some of the kids will take advantage and try out golf or cross country,” said Easterday. “That would be another great way for them to stay fresh and in shape.”
“I want our guys to stay busy and active,” said Johnson. “With the kids having been indoors more than usual recently, competing in another activity can definitely be a nice idea in giving them something to do.”
“If people want to come out and be a part of our team or just work to better themselves, they are more than welcome to do so,” said Helton. “It doesn’t matter if they run 15 or 30 minutes. We’ll do what we can to make everyone better.”
CHS coach Kaitie Hammann is currently looking into what the plan will be for the volleyball team. A decision has yet to be made at this time.
The IHSA board verified that by-laws do not prevent remote learning schools from participating in any sport or activity. Participation will remain a local school and district decision, regardless of the learning plan a high school is utilizing.
Chess, debate, drama, individual events, music and scholastic bowl have all required further discussion.