BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois High School Association is clinging to hopes that winter sports can still be played — and perhaps sooner than later.
The IHSA Board of Directors met in a virtual meeting Thursday and decided to halt winter sports and activities beginning Friday to meet new state mitigations imposed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker earlier this week.
"All IHSA sports and activities will cease by November 20 for what we hope is a short-term pause,” said IHSA executive director Craig Anderson. “Given the rising COVID-19 cases in our state and region, we support the Governor’s mitigations and believe it is imperative for everyone in the state to do their part in following them so that we can return to high school sports participation as soon as possible.”
The Board will discuss winter sports again on Dec. 2 and, if necessary, during their next scheduled meeting on Dec. 14.
“Taking into account the current state mitigations, the Board believes that early to mid-December will be the most reasonable target to review the status of winter IHSA sports and activities,” said Anderson. “The Board is sensitive to the scheduling difficulties these delays create for athletic directors and coaches.
"However, our experiences this summer and fall lead us to believe that setting arbitrary start dates hinders the process even more. We realize it may seem redundant, but we have to preach patience as we await more data and direction from the state. Despite the obstacles this unprecedented school year has presented, the Board’s vision to provide participation opportunities in all IHSA sports has not wavered.”
Mattoon junior and Herald & Review Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year Mallory Ramage is worried about losing her season and has felt the effects of not playing basketball competitively, both in club and school basketball, since the pandemic began.
“It is really sad and I really hope we are able to play school ball this season. I think not having sports has really affected a lot of athletes. For so many of us that is really what we love to do and since we can't play it really affects us,” she said. “It affects athletes emotionally to not be able to play the sport that you really love. I have experienced that myself because I can't really play the sport that I want to play besides practicing.
Teams had been able to do conditioning and limited workouts but the lack of inter-team competition is key for Ramage.
“There's a huge difference between practicing and actually getting some competition since we can't really scrimmage anywhere and they aren't allowing it," she said. "There's a big difference between getting games in and practicing on your own, and for now you just have to do what you can."
The Board reminded athletes and athletic programs that following the mitigations is crucial in playing high school sports as soon as possible.
“I believe there is a misconception that IHSA and non-school athletic programs have an adversarial relationship,” said Anderson. “In my time at the IHSA, I have not found that to be the case at all. More so, I think there is a mutual respect for the opportunities that each provide for athletes. IHSA schools have been exemplary in adhering to state regulations throughout this pandemic and we are calling upon non-school programs to hold themselves to that same standard.
"As school and non-school sports temporarily cease in Illinois, and throughout the Midwest, it is a great reminder that putting the health and safety of our fellow citizens at the forefront in the short-term will allow all levels of athletics to thrive in the long-term.”
Pritzker announced in late October that basketball was moved from medium risk to high risk and would be put on hold. After the IHSA decided to go forward with the season anyway, Pritzker said basketball would be moved to the spring.
Most schools decided they would not go against Pritzker and Illinois Department of Health guidelines and play the basketball season as set out by the IHSA.
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Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_benson
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