IHSA allowing basketball season to move forward in November

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors met for a special board meeting on Wednesday and provided the latest information on the IHSA’s winter sports season.

Wrestling will be moved from the winter season to the summer season, the board says. The sport will run from April 19 to June 26, 2021.

The Board also approved the IHSA's winter sport guidance for all low risk sports, which includes Boys Swimming & Diving, Cheerleading, Dance, Boys and Girls Bowling, and Girls Gymnastics. These low risk sports will run from Nov. 16, 2020 until Feb. 13, 2021.

"I get it COVID is something we need to be concerned about and continue to do so," said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson.

The IHSA Board says they will review spectator and group gatherings for all winter sports at a future meeting in November.

The Board will also allow Boys and Girls Basketball to begin practices on November 16. Contests can begin on Nov. 30 within an Illinois COIVD Region or within a conference.

IHSA says msks will be worn by all players, coaches and officials during play.  

"It would be unfortunate but they would probably be taking on legal liability if they moved beyond what the state has set as the standard," said Anderson. 

Boys and Girls Basketball teams will follow team limitations allowing a maximum of 31 games. It will become a local school decision to determine if a school will allow their basketball teams to participate following the guidelines, the Board said.

The Board released the following statement regarding the basketball action:

“The Illinois High School Association Board of Directors made the decision today to continue with the IHSA basketball season as scheduled in 2020-21. In August, the Board slated basketball to take place from November to February based on the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) assigning a medium risk level to the sport. The IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) offered additional mitigations, such as masks during play and social distancing on benches, that the SMAC believed would allow basketball to be played safely. 

After diligent discussion, the Board has made the decision today to follow the recommendation of the IHSA SMAC as it relates to basketball. The Board remains considerate of rising COVID-19 cases in Illinois and understand the importance of adhering to safety guidelines for the good of all citizens. However, the Board has not been presented any causal evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any other health organization nationally or internationally. On the contrary, the IHSA has been looking to bordering states who have sponsored both medium risk and high risk sports in the fall that have noted a low incident rate of COVID-19 spread.

Instead, we will require all IHSA basketball teams to adhere to those SMAC mitigations, and allow local school officials to make decisions related to participation.

Mounting challenges, from increased mental health issues among our students to a shrinking calendar that limits our ability to move sport seasons this school year, were instrumental in this decision to move forward with basketball as scheduled. We see our students regularly leaving the state to play sports, or covertly continuing to play locally. Students can be better protected in the high school setting, and the Board remains steadfast that playing under IHSA rules and SMAC mitigation is the safest way to conduct athletics at this juncture.

Illinois is a large and diverse state, and the IHSA membership is reflective of that. We understand that this decision will impact each high school and district differently. Some schools who remain in remote learning may not be able to start winter sports on time, and we feel for those in that situation. However, we have also learned that we cannot continue to look down the road to a season that may never come.

Contact days for our teams this fall have been an incredible boon to our students’ well-being. We fear for the mental health of students who attempt to traverse a long winter with no athletic outlet available. So much about dealing with this virus has been learned in the past eight months, and this decision will grant the membership the opportunity to apply that knowledge during their basketball season.

Each member of the IHSA Board volunteered for this position because they are passionate about high school sports and activities, and the positive impact they have on our students’ physical and mental health.”