By Lenny Sementi
The landscape of the scholastic sports world in Illinois began to change late last week when regions around the state moved from Tier 3 mitigations to Tier 2. Things continued to develop on Saturday when Governor Pritzker announced Region 5 in Southern Illinois had advanced to Tier 1. More regions made the move on Sunday and today numerous skipped past Tier 2 entirely right to Tier 1, like Tuscola’s Region 6. Some even jumped right into Phase 4 thanks to the state launching a surge-staffing program to support hospitals.
What does it all mean for Tuscola sports programs, it’s still a little hard to figure out without a map and a flow chart but one thing is for sure scholastic sports took a big step in the right direction the past few days. As of right now all sports will be allowed contact days beginning on Monday, January 25. It also means that low risk winter sports can begin competition like bowling and such. Basketball, which was moved from medium risk to high risk, will be able to practice and have intrasquad scrimmages. Baseball, Softball and Track all TCHS programs in the low risk category and volleyball, which is medium risk, are all set to be played when their season arrives as long as the state does not regress.
Region 6 could move into Phase 4 early this week but both basketball and football were not allowed to be played in 2020 during Phase 4, meaning the governor and the IDPH would have to change the Phase 4 wording and rules. This however is still a good day for sports programs around the state and with so much movement in such a short time there is hope those changes may in fact occur.
“We look forward to getting back in the gym starting tomorrow (Tuesday),” commented head boys basketball coach Justin Bozarth. “Obviously, it’s a step in the right direction for our region when it comes to athletics. The reality is that to this point, there’s still not a clear vision for when high-risk sports like basketball can resume games. We hope to get more clarity from IDPH and/or the IHSA this week.”
“However, the part that I’ve missed the most in all of this is the day-to-day interactions and camaraderie that comes with being a part of a team. I’m thrilled that there’s still time left to make those memories with our seniors.”
Girls basketball coach Tim Kohlbecker echoed the sentiments, “It will be great to have the kids back on the court. With it being post holidays, dreary weather, no extracurricular, this is coming at the right time. Don’t know what this means for a season yet, but these kids need as much activity as we can provide.”
Late Monday afternoon on Jan. 18 the IHSA released a statement following all the rapid developments of the day. “The IHSA is working with the IDPH to clarify what the continued positive movement of the multiple Regions to Tier 1,Tier 2 or Phase 4 means for IHSA schools and sports moving forward. We will send out an update to member schools and post information on our website Tuesday.”