IHSA return to play

Kankakee’s Dion Dansby works on his offensive line skills by practicing on a sled during workouts in Kankakee last summer. The IHSA released return to play guidelines in regards to this summer’s workout and contact period, which was delayed five days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the first time in many months, the Illinois High School Association has brought good news to high school sports.

Thanks to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan, starting, IHSA member schools will be allowed to open for voluntary strength and conditioning sessions Saturday, due to the new return to play guidelines that were recently developed by the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

However, in order to participate, school districts must be in Phase 3 (or better) under the governor’s plan and they must work with their local health officials on current restrictions within their area. Currently, the entire state is at that level. Being that the IHSA wants to prioritize the health and safety of all students and staff, local school administration and health officials will determine the permitted activities at their particular school.

While the news is certainly encouraging, the final approval having to come at the local level is something that could lead to some areas of the state playing the waiting game a bit longer than others.

“Not speaking for our school because we haven’t met yet, but, generally speaking, I would think this would bring some schools more advantage than others — being in the southwest Chicago area is a little different than being downstate,” Reed-Custer athletic director Chuck Anderson said. “So, overall, I think it would be an advantage to others in some respects, it wouldn’t be the same exact rules for everyone.”

As it relates to local schools surrounding the Kankakee area, all 24 of our local schools will be allowed to reopen on June 6 as they all are in Phase 3.

“I think it’s obviously a big first step finally getting the guidance to open the door for us to slowly get back our athletes into our building, working out again and lifting weights,” Kankakee athletic director Ronnie Wilcox said. “It’s definitely exciting and a big first step.”

According to the IHSA’s statement they released Friday afternoon, and many other discoveries on the dangers of the coronvirus’ spread, outdoor workouts are being encouraged by the state, and all student-athletes are limited to three hours of contact per day.

Each guideline has been aimed toward a student-athlete’s acclimatization and general physical fitness, and won’t include any skill of sports training elements. All athletes and coaches must adhere to every guideline to ensure maximum safety precautions as then plan to bring back their athletic teams.

Unlike Anderson and Reed-Custer, who won’t be resuming sports until he meets with other school and health officials this upcoming Monday, Wilcox and Kankakee have been waiting for this moment for months and plan on reopening as soon as possible.

Originally, summer workouts were to open up last Monday.

“We have been just waiting for the green light,” Wilcox said. “So, we will start as quickly as possible.”

Depending on the school and the decisions made by their local health officials, each high school will likely resume at their own pace, with all of them hoping to at least be able to resume to complete normalcy this upcoming fall.

More information on the start of the fall sports season, as well as the school year as a whole, will be discovered as the summer days pile up.

“Like everyone else, we’d love to see our kids back in school in a traditional face-to-face meeting, and to also be able to play our sports this fall would be a very good thing for everybody,” Anderson said. “Not only for the fans, student-athletes, but the coaches and teachers, it would be nice to get back to normalcy and, hopefully, that’ll happen.”

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