Prep sports get some good news

By Spyder Dann

The Illinois Department of Public Health decision to move southern Illinois into Tier 1 mitigations for COVID-19, the restrictions governing high school sports have loosened.

From a prep sports standpoint that means medium risk sports can play games and/or matches and high risk sports can start scrimmages.

Sports such as soccer and volleyball are currently considered medium risk, while basketball, football and wrestling are considered high risk. Bowling, baseball, softball and track and field are all classed as low risk sports.

The IHSA's revised calendar, due to COVID-19, has football and volleyball able to start practice on Feb. 15. Sports currently on the calendar, like boys and girls basketball, can have practices and even scrimmages right now, but are not yet allowed to play other teams.

The IHSA will have another meeting with its board of directors on Jan. 27.

Marion High School Athletic Director Ryan Goodisky said Sunday he appreciates the good news that came out Saturday, but admits he still has more questions than answers.

"We're excited," he said. "But it's hard to get too excited and not have the concrete answers you need right now. For winter sports, we need to know are we going to pick up and modify the current schedule? Are we going to move the calendar altogether? Or are we going to cancel it altogether?

"We need answers, rather than me just turning our kids loose and letting them go practice."

Du Quoin Athletic Director and football coach Derek Beard said that each sport is coming up with a plan to get athletes back in their respective sport. Beard said that the plan for his Indians is to hold workouts for the next few weeks, and he hopes to be able to start practice on Feb. 15.

Harrisburg Athletic Director Greg Langley said he will meet with Superintendent Mike Gauch, Principal Scott Dewar and others on Tuesday to confirm details moving forward.

"I assume we will be doing what is allowed by the IDPH for low, moderate and high risk sports in Tier 1," Langley said. "We know contact days cannot start until Jan. 25 for sports not in the winter season."

Goodisky said his plan of attack will be prioritizing a schedule or calendar since the school still has to follow strict indoor guidelines.

"I can't just let everyone get together in one building," he said, pointing out that the school is installing some new lights on the football field.

"If it's snowing, sleeting or raining outside and (football coach) Kerry Martin wants to bring his kids inside, well, he's got 81 kids and right now, I can only have 50 (due to COVID restrictions) and that's if I divide the HEC center in half with 25 on each side.

"We'll make a priority list based on the timeline of the sport obviously," Goodisky said. "The winter teams will get going as soon as we know more details on their calendar and we will accommodate the spring teams that are still a month out from being able to start their season."

Under the current IHSA calendar, boys soccer and volleyball games are scheduled to start on March 1, while football is slated to begin on March 5 with an end date for all on May 1.

Baseball, softball, girls soccer, track and field and wrestling can all begin practice on April 19 with games scheduled to start on May 3 and end on June 26.

Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois LOCAL Media Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.