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IHSA Shifts Plans

Written by on November 23, 2020

Photo courtesy IHSA Facebook

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – High school basketball seasons will be looking different this year.

Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health has classified basketball as a high-risk sport. The sport would have been delayed but there have been guidelines set in place for this season by the Illinois High School Association. Executive Director Craig Anderson was surprised to hear about the adjustment and its timing.

“I think there are ways to keep it at a lesser risk with some mitigation guidelines similar to what we have done with other sports and activities to make those playable,” said Anderson. “I didn’t fully understand how the Governor and the Department of Public Health reached that conclusion but it is obviously at their discretion and they have been establishing the risk levels of sports dating back to late July.”

IHSA asked their member schools to complete a survey to gauge insight into when they could start their seasons. The schools were surveyed on beginning practices on Nov. 16th and starting games on Nov. 30th. Over 800 schools received the survey but approximately 550 completed it. 10% of schools said they would like to start in November with about 50% stating that they do not plan on kicking off the season. 40% of the population remained unsure if they would start their season with the timeline given by IHSA.

“We didn’t ask them about a spring season for basketball because our board had not yet and still hasn’t established the opportunity for schools to move basketball to a different season,” said Anderson. “So that reflects some of the outcomes of the survey we conducted to provide information to our board.”

The Department of Public Health and the governor’s office in the all-sports policy are some of the guidance IHSA will follow. IHSA plans to minimize groups and the number of individuals that gather to the sporting event. The limit will be 50 people including players, coaches, officials, athlete trainers and more. Social distancing will be mandatory on the bench and masks will be required to be worn at all times—including contestants.

“We instituted a number of things that we thought could make it possible for our schools to go forward with basketball and do it safely,” said Anderson.

Anderson says he feels terrible for the student-athletes who are playing under these circumstances. It is still up in the air as to how many schools are participating. Anderson offers encouragement to the student-athletes and says the board will continue to find ways to support students even if there is a delayed start. He says IHSA plans to navigate the best they can with schools that are not on their timeline with the limitations that they are under.

“I think our board has come under the gun a little bit about putting it back on the schools in saying that we wanted to go forward with basketball, even though, you know the information out of the governor’s office and IDPH maybe would say that we shouldn’t,” said Anderson. “That was always in the best interest of our students. Again, we talked about the safety measures that we plan for basketball and we believe that we could conduct basketball safely but we recognize now that we need to produce a convincing of the Department of Public health and the governor’s office that that is in fact the case.”

Anderson says IHSA will continue to make decisions that they think will help the young people they serve.