(9-14-20) The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors met virtually for their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, September 14, 2020, where the Board approved several updates to the IHSA Return To Activities guidelines, while also providing guidance on the IHSA’s independent team participation rule for the 2020-21 school year.

At each meeting of the Board of Directors, there are certain items the Board discusses, but upon which no action is taken. The following is a report of one of those items from the September 14, 2020, agenda:

The Board discussed the letter submitted to Governor Pritzker and Deputy Governor Ruiz by IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson on September 10. Citing the mental and physical benefits of participation for student-athletes, the letter seeks permission for the IHSA and its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to resume control of determining the resumption of IHSA sports and activities moving forward. The Board has asked the IHSA staff to prepare accordingly for a response to the letter by government officials and an action plan for future and continued communication with the governor’s office. 

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson:

“The fact of the matter is that under the leadership of Governor Pritzker, Illinois has attained one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country. When you couple that with surrounding states successfully conducting high school sports, and many non-school teams being allowed to play, it feels like the appropriate time for the IHSA to be provided the ability to reexamine our situation.”

No comments were made on the upcoming ‘Let Us Play’ rallies this weekend in Springfield and Chicago to bring back sports.

Don’t expect to see the IHSA involved in those rallies. This appeared in a statement by Anderson last week.

The IHSA is not involved in any planned protests this weekend related to high school sports. If protests occur, we encourage all attendees to be safe, smart and respectful.”

The Board updated its Return To Activities guidelines by waiving the 2020-21 season limitations for winter, spring, and summer sports that would have restricted those sports to no more than two contests per week. The winter, spring, and summer seasons will now revert to their normal season game limitations as dictated by IHSA by-laws. Tournaments are also no longer limited to three teams, however, current state gathering limitations would not allow for a multi-team tournament unless multiple venues were used.

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson

“We have preached that this school year will be fluid, and the changes made by the Board today are a good example of that. When the IHSA’s initial Return To Activities guidelines were established, the limitation of two contests per week felt like a constraint that would help limit exposure. However, given how well our state is handling the pandemic, and the lack of setbacks in the fall sports we have conducted so far, there was a consensus that we could move forward with allowing schools to schedule winter, spring, and summer sports without further restrictions.”

Additionally, the IHSA’s summer season will begin two weeks earlier than initially announced. With Monday’s modification, summer sports (baseball, softball, track & field, girls soccer, lacrosse, boys tennis) can now begin practices on April 19 and games on May 3.

Anderson commented

“We understood that when the modified schedule for 2020-21 was released that the summer sport season coaches would take some umbrage with it. However, we also knew that summer was the season that we had the most time and flexibility to work with, so we preached patience. We are glad to be able to provide some relief by creating the option to start two weeks earlier.”

Additionally, the Board reviewed a request from Highland High School that sought an exemption to IHSA By-law 3.100, which governs Independent Team Participation. Highland sought an exemption to the rule during 2020-21 for the sports of volleyball, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, and softball, which would allow student-athletes in those sports to simultaneously participate on their IHSA school team and on a non-school team. The current by-law prevents participation on a school and non-school team at the same time in the same sport. The Board elected not to provide an exemption to the rule.

Anderson commented-

“There was a lengthy and spirited discussion on if we should provide an exemption to this rule given the unprecedented nature of the school year.The Board understands both sides of the argument and has heard from passionate advocates for each scenario. Ultimately, concerns over safety and equity left them uncomfortable with providing an exemption to this rule. They understand it could lead to some difficult decisions between participating on a school or non-school team. Fundamentally, the nature and mission of the IHSA is to provide participation opportunities to all students. The Board agreed that if a student-athlete chooses to leave their school team for a non-school team, it simply creates an opportunity for another student to step in and fill that role.”