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Game On

After more than 10 months of waiting high school athletes finally have a timeline as the IHSA has officially moved forward by setting season schedules.

The Board of Directors held its weekly meeting and announced which sports are playing and when.

Boys’ and girls’ basketball is set to start immediately and run through March 13, with no state series. Practices are already ongoing for many schools and some have even played their first game. Only seven official workouts will be required before teams can play a game, reduced from 12 that was originally announced earlier this month.

The IHSA board also said football practice will start beginning March 3 and overlap the end of the basketball season. The six-game season begins on March 19 and runs through April 24 with no state tourney.

Volleyball will also begin soon, starting March 8 through April 24, but will also not have a state series.

Traditional spring sports which include baseball, softball, boys and girls track and field, girls soccer and boys tennis will be held April 5-June 19 with a state tournament to be decided. Spring sports were canceled last year when the global pandemic began.

“The Board wants to do everything in their power to prevent spring sports from going two consecutive years with no postseason IHSA play,” said IHSA executive director Craig Anderson. “There are obviously no guarantees, as risk levels by sport and local region mitigation statuses will factor significantly. Postseason could mean being limited to a Regional or Sectional level of competition, but we have not ruled out the idea of playing a full state tournament in these traditional spring sports if possible. The overwhelming feedback we have heard from athletic directors and coaches was that returning to play in all sports should be the main goal.”

All high school sports were given the green light to play on Friday, January 22 in an unexpected move from Gov. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The outlook was bleak for high-risk sports such as basketball, football and wrestling until the change was announced. Schools must be in a Phase 4 region to compete, meaning things could certainly change going forward depending on the COVID-19 numbers across the state.

“We understood the high level of anticipation surrounding today’s announcement, along with the scrutiny that will accompany it,” said Anderson. “Ultimately, the Board adhered to its stated goals throughout the pandemic: providing an opportunity for every IHSA student-athlete to compete safely this year.”

“I recognize that many schools and coaches could likely offer a tweak here or there that would have, in their opinion, made it ‘better’ for their school or sport. Our Board faced an impossible task with a litany of factors. They were conscientious in considering every possibility and I believe their decisions today are a positive step for the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of our students. We are excited to channel our energy into creating as many positive experiences for Illinois high school students as we can between now and the end of this extraordinary school year.”

Fall sports will start up as usual in August for the 2021-22 school year.

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