By Tony Hooker
If you look closely, you can see a faint glimmer of normalcy starting to return for our kids.
On July 31, eight days after voting to cancel the season for Cross County, Golf, Softball and Baseball, the IESA board of directors, following updated information from the IDPH and Governor Pritzker, reversed course and will now allow competition in all those sports.
“During their meeting on July 23, the IESA Board made the decision to cancel the fall activities of golf, softball, baseball, and cross-country. That decision was based on the information the Association had at the time of the meeting. The All Sports Guidance document that was recently released from the Governor’s Office placed the sports of golf, softball, baseball, and cross-country in the “lower risk” category. Sports in that category can hold practices and interscholastic games. As a result of these four sports being recategorized to lower risk and with interscholastic competitions being allowed, the IESA Board for Directors has approved a plan for the return of regular season contests in these activities and a limited state series.
Softball, baseball, and cross-country teams may begin their practices on August 3, and they may conduct their first game or contest on August 15. Please note that competitions may not be held before August 15. This means that contests previously scheduled to start before August 15 will need to be cancelled. This start date is mandated by the Governor’s Office.
A regional only level of the state series for softball and baseball will be held the week of September 21 and a sectional only level for cross-country will be held sometime between October 10-17. A sectional only level for golf will be held on Wednesday, September 9.
Additionally, the Board approved a plan for modified seasons in all remaining IESA sports and activities. The purpose of the plan is to provide schools, administrators, coaches, parents, and officials with a general framework for their sports and activity programs in the 2020-21 school year. It is a very fluid plan and circumstances/guidelines/mandates may change any part of the plan at any time. The plan is available at this link: https://www.iesa.org/temp/IESAAlternativePlan.pdf”
It’s not perfect, but in these times I believe it’s the best we can hope for. Of particular note is the fact that if a region or city falls into category 3 or lower, all competition for schools within that region will be cancelled. Right now, because Douglas County is in Region 6, which also includes Champaign County, any significant increase in positivity caused by Champaign-Urbana or the University of Illinois populations can impact the continuance of competition, unless the IDPH goes with a county by county determination, which I sincerely hope is the case. An outbreak when students return to campus has little bearing on the susceptibility of a bunch of runners in a Chrisman cow pasture, after all.
To me, the fact that there won’t be state tournaments after the regional or sectional level is also significant. Again, not ideal, but at least the states’ premier athletes will have a chance to see if all their hard work pays off at a championship level regionally. Good luck to all the athletes and their families.
Is this the new normal? I sure hope not, but for 2020, it’s about the best that we can hope for.
IESA Director Steve Endsley and his staff, along with the board of directors, were subject to a high level of verbal abuse when the decision was made to cancel the season, and they should be praised now for having the flexibility to put together a plan once new information was forthcoming.