It’s been almost two weeks since Illinois High School Association member schools were allowed to begin re-opening their athletic programs under the Gov. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan.
Since June 6th, high schools all across the state have slowly begun resuming their sport programs in correspondence to Stage 1 of IHSA’s Return to Play guidelines. Each school has had the ability to hold voluntary strength and conditioning sessions that can last up to a maximum of three hours.
A majority of area schools like Bradley-Bourbonnais, Bishop McNamara and Kankakee have already joined in on the action.
“It’s been nice just to get coaches and athletes back into the building because then they can get acclimated again,” Kankakee athletic director Ronnie Wilcox said. “It’s also been frustrating at the same time with the lack of being able to get fully involved. We understand it’s a process and getting people back into the weight room has been nice.”
The past two weeks have marked the first time student-athletes have been allowed back into a school setting since the IHSA suspended all sporting programs back in March.
And Kankakee re-opened as soon as they got the green light. Kays sports like football and volleyball began right away on June 6th and have since continued to hold weightlifting and conditioning programs.
The trickiest part of resuming sports has been following all the new rules and regulations. Abiding by the social distancing guidelines haven’t been easy for Kankakee, especially due to COVID-19 being something nobody has has to experience before.
“It’s been a new way of thinking for everybody, coaches and players are trying their best to abide by the guidelines and its just been different,” Wilcox said. “We are looking forward to hopefully next week moving into Stage 2 and getting back to a normal way of doing things.”
Other high schools like Bishop McNamara haven’t had as hard of a time following the guidelines. Head football coach Rich Zinanni and his coaching staff waited a couple days after June 6th so they could take all precautionary measures for their team in a systematic way.
“We do the entire thing correctly, temperature checks, keeping the records, keeping them in groups of 10” Zinanni said. “And then we have stations of drills and exercises that we are doing. No ball or no equipment yet.
“We normally go two hours, but we’ve been cutting it down because we don’t need to do conditioning for that long.”
Like Kankakee, Mac’s football team has also been working on various weightlifting and conditioning training methods as well. Coach Zinanni has been putting his players into separate stations for various exercise routines where they rotate every couple of minutes.
“Our kids are excited they have been showing up and doing a good job,” Zinanni said. “So far, so good for us.”
In fact, things have going so smoothly for the Irish football team that its players are itching to get back together in full form.
“I know the kids are the ones who are chopping at their lips to get going,” Zannini said. “I hope it works out the way they said that we will get started in the next two weeks during the end of June or early July when we can move to the next stage and have 50 kids in a group and use a football.”
Bradley-Bourbonnais followed suit with McNamara by waiting a couple of days before resuming sporting activities.
“We just finished our first week with it just trying to get our ducks in a rows far as protocol,” Bradley-Bourbonnais athletic director and football coach Mike Kohl said. “We really got into a rhythm and routine. The biggest thing for our kids is that they are really excited to be back. Our kids need this more emotionally and socially than they do physically.”
Knowing how much his student-athletes needed to get back, Kohl has allowed not just his fall athletes back on campus, but all of his student-athletes from all sports to come for voluntary workouts .
“We’ve had a ton of kids back on campus — all of our sports are lifting and running and not just our fall kids,” Kohl said. “It’s everybody back on campus and we are hoping to move forward with Phase 4 and Stage 2 of IHSA’s Return to Play guidelines.”
Time will tell whether or not the Illinois Department of Public Health will approve the IHSA’s Stage 2 Return to play guidelines in the next coming weeks.
“I hope it happens.” Zinanni said. “It’s all new to everybody so its pretty hard to predict. We can only do what we are supposed to do and plan for it and hopefully it happens.”