Youth sports practice depends on ‘complicated’ COVID-19 tier scheme

(The Center Square) – A Springfield area basketball coach is hoping to go from COVID to championships, but there’s still no certainty on when the first games will be played, let alone when student-athletes will be able to practice as a team.

Things are moving in the right direction for youth sports in Illinois as regions of the state see the governor’s COVID-19 mitigation relaxed tier by tier, but the Illinois High School Association’s executive director said there’s still a lot unresolved in the COVID-era.

The IHSA announced low-risk sports like badminton, cheer and bowling competitions can begin after seven practice days in regions of the state that meet certain COVID-19 metrics determined by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

There’s the possibility of basketball and even football practice to begin soon, depending on the region’s metrics and depending on the local school district, said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson.

“With eleven different regions and each one separately having it’s potentially own little criteria above and beyond what even local districts need to approve, if and when in some sports they can compete, are they or aren’t they going to have spectators, because in certain tiers you may be able to have some spectators,” Anderson said. “I get it, it’s complicated.”

Anderson is pointing student-athletes and their parents to a COVID-19 resource page at IHSA.org.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said “updates to sports guidance are currently being worked on,” but did not provide a date certain when those updates would be available.

Blake Turner is the coach of Lanphier boys basketball in Springfield. He told WMAY the news that contact days for practice can start Jan. 25 is great, but the team still needs to get the green light from the Springfield school board.

“Look forward to hopefully playing basketball in the spring and hopefully being able to compete for that state championship that we felt was in our grasp this year and last year,” Turner said.

Some of his student-athletes have been training on their own, but they’ve also played in different leagues like the Amateur Athletic Union, which is outside the purview of the IHSA, he said.

Anderson said there’s a lot more sports guidance expected, including a possible spring football season to make up for the one lost this fall, but even that’s up in the air.

“Our board will likely consider an adjustment to the football season, in addition to the weather circumstances that will play into that and the winter sports I think additionally is the unknown of if and when we’ll be able to compete,” Anderson said.

The ISHA board meets again on Jan. 27.

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