Fall season in some sports should be put on hold

  • With growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 high school football season might not happen this fall.

      With growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 high school football season might not happen this fall. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • The high school volleyball season remains uncertain as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present concerns.

      The high school volleyball season remains uncertain as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present concerns. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • With growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 high school football season might not happen.

      With growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 high school football season might not happen. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/14/2020 4:43 PM

Again, moving forward with high school sports in Illinois has been dealt a setback.

And there's nothing on today's horizon that would lead us to believe that's going to change anytime soon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

We say the time has come for the Illinois High School Association to seriously consider doing what is being done elsewhere in parts of the country.

Cancel football, volleyball and soccer this fall, if not all sports.

The IHSA's Phase 4 Return to Play plan last week was scaled back to include no contact in any sport after the IHSA received guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education and Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the IHSA announced it will defer to the Illinois Department of Public Health, ISBE and the governor's office on all of its Return to Play guidelines moving forward.

We wait again to move forward, and now the IHSA waits with us.

We know canceling sports this fall is far from a popular opinion.

But at this point, we believe it would be the right decision.

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We want high school sports back. Athletes, parents, coaches, school administrators and yes, sports writers, want high school sports back. The IHSA wants sports back.

For many, it's our livelihood and we all miss it tremendously.

On Friday night, Aug. 28, we want to hear the crack of the pads, the cheerleaders performing to a packed stadium, the bands, the smell of brats and burgers on grills. We want Friday Night Lights. We want soccer games, we want volleyball matches.

But how? We're in mid-July. The first day of fall sports practices is scheduled Aug. 10.

Is it realistic to think, with positive coronavirus cases on the rise in Illinois and all over the country, that football, soccer and volleyball can be played safely?

The sobering answer is no.

The obstacles surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are many. We don't know if schools are going to be open for in-person learning. We also don't know how things are going to work if there is in-person learning. And that obstacle has to be cleared before we can think about how sports would come back.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

IHSA executive director Craig Anderson has made it clear there's no guarantee contact sports -- specifically football, soccer and volleyball in the fall -- will return in the fall. In fact, he and many others have stated those sports probably cannot return until we reach Phase 5, and that seems a long way off.

"Physical contact in football presents challenges," Anderson told me in late June. "If we can have some activities in July and early August and do so safely, it paves the way to have some expanded activities that today might not look possible."

The IHSA tried to have activities this month but its Phase 4 plan was short-lived in its original form.

"This setback, in my opinion, has created some alarm to the schools. Now they say these provisions could take us into the fall and, if that is the case, then volleyball, soccer (and) football just cannot be played under these limitations," Anderson told ABC 7's Alexis McAdams Monday.

Anderson also said the IHSA plans to meet with officials from ISBE and IDPH next week. Shaw Media reported Monday the IHSA has told schools a decision will be made July 29 on fall sports.

July 29? Twelve days before practices "officially" begin?

Time isn't just running short here, folks. We say time is up. Hopefully things will change in the coming weeks, but based on the trend of the pandemic -- and what medical experts are saying -- that doesn't appear likely.

It's OK to allow summer camps to continue, with restrictions. Kids need to be out in the sunshine doing things safely. It'll probably be OK for sports like golf and tennis to move forward.

But it's now time for the IHSA to do the smart thing, the safe thing, and the right thing.

And that would be to put an indefinite hold on the fall season in sports that require physical contact.

Everything else, including moving those sports to spring, can be discussed after that.

First, let's be smart and safe -- and healthy.

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