There haven't been many reasons to rejoice in 2020.
On Wednesday, the Illinois High School Association gave student-athletes one.
A day after the Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health moved the upcoming basketball season from medium risk to high risk, the Illinois High School Association reversed that decision to allow basketball this winter.
Pinckneyville athletic director boys basketball coach Bob Waggoner said this is the return to normalcy his kids have been yearning for.
"We were in practice, in the weight room, when this news broke," Waggoner said. "The guys were excited. Now, I told them to go home and have a serious conversation with their parents about this season, but they like many student-athletes in southern Illinois have already filled out a wavier. Look, my guys have bought in. They know to wear a mask and other efforts to follow protocol have been followed. As a coach or even as a parent, that's really all we've asked. Let us make the best decision for our kids."
The IHSA Board took action to follow the guidance of the IHSA Sport Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) and will allow boys and girls basketball to begin practices, per IHSA Return to Activities 2.0, on November 16. Contests can begin on November 30th within an Illinois COIVD Region or within a conference. As a part of the mitigation plan, masks will be worn by all players, coaches, and officials during play.
Originally, the first official start of practice for girls basketball in state was scheduled to take place Monday (November 2) and for the boys, a week late (November 9).
Harrisburg girls coach Jake Stewart noted there will be some hurdles to overcome, but the overall excitement about being able to play basketball is something he feels trumps those obstacles.
"I know my girls are happy," Stewart said. "I texted them in a group message and informed them there is still more to talk about, but they are just ecstatic and they just want to play. It really doesn't matter what we have to do as far as guidelines, we'll do it, they just want to play."
Boys and Girls Basketball teams will follow team limitations allowing a maximum of 31 games. It will become a local school decision to determine if a school will allow their basketball teams to participate following the guidelines developed by the SMAC.
Benton head boys' basketball coach, Ron Winemiller, who is also on the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, doesn't believe many schools in southern Illinois won't play basketball, but also says that decision will be a personal one.
"That will be something each school will have to take on and figure out on their own. I don't think this is over, however. (Wednesday) was a better day than yesterday and I think people are excited, but perhaps in the same token confused. Where does this put us? You just had the IHSA defy the Governor and the IDPH, I would think they are going to have something to say about that."
The Board released the following statement regarding the basketball action:
"The Illinois High School Association Board of Directors made the decision (Wednesday) to continue with the IHSA basketball season as scheduled in 2020-21. ... The IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee offered additional mitigations, such as masks during play and social distancing on benches, that the SMAC believed would allow basketball to be played safely. The high school basketball season was potentially put on hold on October 27, when Governor Pritzker announced that IDPH had changed basketball's risk level from medium risk to high risk.
"After diligent discussion, the Board has made the decision today to follow the recommendation of the IHSA SMAC as it relates to basketball. The Board remains considerate of rising COVID-19 cases in Illinois and understand the importance of adhering to safety guidelines for the good of all citizens. However, the Board has not been presented any causal evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any other health organization nationally or internationally. On the contrary, the IHSA has been looking to bordering states who have sponsored both medium risk and high risk sports in the fall that have noted a low incident rate of COVID-19 spread. Instead, we will require all IHSA basketball teams to adhere to those SMAC mitigations, and allow local school officials to make decisions related to participation."
In addition to basketball on Wednesday, the board voted to move wrestling from the winter season to the summer season, which will run from April 19 to June 26, 2021.
The Board approved the IHSA 's winter sport guidance for all low risk sports, which includes Boys Swimming & Diving, Cheerleading, Dance, Boys & Girls Bowling, and Girls Gymnastics. These sports will be conducted from November 16, 2020, to February 13, 2021. The mitigating guidance for each sport will be posted on the IHSA's COVID-19 Resource page on October 29. The IHSA Board will review spectator and group gatherings for all winter sports at a future meeting in November.
Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois LOCAL Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.
Reason To Rejoice!
There haven't been many reasons to rejoice in 2020.