Next stage in IHSA reopening plan gets state approval

  • Naperville North sophomore football player Aiden Gray does planks during practice earlier this summer.

      Naperville North sophomore football player Aiden Gray does planks during practice earlier this summer. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Updated 7/6/2020 11:27 AM

Dennis Piron initially had no words when asked his reaction to the IHSA's Return To Play guidelines, which finally were announced Friday.

Batavia's football coach simply responded with a smiley-face emoji.


Welcome to our new world of communication. And for IHSA sports, welcome back. Period.

"I'm excited," said Piron, who's also Batavia's boys assistant athletic director and a member of the IHSA's Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. "It's going to allow eventually for 7-on-7s (for football) if you want, you can do your summer camps now, and the kids can get back in action. There's obviously restrictions and guidelines you've got to follow, like everything else. But especially for the kids, what a thing.

"You're talking about an unprecedented change for young people all over this country. There are millions of athletes, and they get to work again now, and in our state (high school) kids can get back with their coaches."

The next stage in the IHSA's reopening plan was approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health with some small changes.

The plan goes into effect Sunday.

The IHSA Return to Play plan -- formerly called Stage 2 but now called Phase 4 to align with Gov. J.B. Pritzker's Restore Illinois Plan -- is the next step toward allowing fall sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The plan limits athletes to five hours of participation a day during the summer. Schools must maintain a daily record for all participating athletes, including body temperature and other possible symptoms of the coronavirus. It also addresses the circumstances under which games can be played and directs masks be worn by coaches and others. Referees will not use whistles.

Groups will be limited to 50 athletes and coaches, up from the current 10.

The plan also includes how and how often to clean equipment and facilities and how to handle hydration during the hottest July days.

"I think the guidelines look pretty reasonable," said Barrington athletic director Mike Obsuszt. "They're giving us an opportunity to interact with our student-athletes and giving the coaches an opportunity to run drills and maybe put in some offensive and defensive work. I think it's a good thing.

"I think the coaches are going to be really, really cognizant of the social distancing. I think they're just going to be glad to be back with their athletes."


Antioch football coach Brian Glashagel said the IHSA's move essentially came in the eleventh hour.

"I think everyone was sweating it out," Glashagel said. "I know a lot, a lot of schools were targeting Monday as a start day. Us included."

Glashagel and his staff plan to get together with their players Monday.

"It's going to be so awesome just to get outside with the kids and the coaches," Glashagel said, "and do something."

Obsuszt doesn't expect any pushback from his coaches regarding the Phase 4 guidelines.

"Summer camps are all optional," Obsuszt said. "They're optional for kids. They're optional for coaches. Obviously, we encourage coaches to host camps, but if any of them felt like they were not comfortable, or maybe they had a specific medical history or condition where they didn't feel comfortable working in a group, we would work around that."

Rolling Meadows boys soccer coach Brett Olson stressed that safety is the No. 1 goal. But he is hoping for more clarity regarding certain guidelines, including the requirement for coaches to wear face coverings.

"There's obviously dining inside without masks," Olson said. "I think there's a difference between coaching football, soccer, tennis, cross country and other fall sports outside compared to coaching volleyball or basketball, or being in a confined gymnasium, especially when there aren't going to be fans much at all.

"I'm a coach that talks constantly. I'm not trying to argue anything about safety. But I'm a math guy (RMHS math teacher), so statistics, facts and logistics are a big thing for me."

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