With exactly one month to go before IHSA programs typically begin official preparations for the fall sports season, doubt swirls around whether those things will be allowed to happen.
The IHSA sent sweeping revisions of the initial Phase 4 guidelines to schools Thursday amid reports of athletes testing positive for COVID-19, including prohibiting contact drills and any physical contact among athletes.
In an interview with WRMJ radio sports director Jim Taylor on Friday, IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson explained additional reasons for the return to play guidelines and outlined numerous options that are being discussed regarding how and if fall sports will be contested.
"As of today, as a result of recent decisions we've had to make, and of the last couple of days, it has me a bit concerned," Anderson said. "It's getting more complicated with the different adjustments that have been made to what was our Phase 4 guidelines that we had approved and have now had some setbacks.
"But I remain hopeful that even with these setbacks, that we will get back to more activities soon as long as our schools continue to do it safely and we don't have any spikes or spread of the virus."
The original Phase 4 guidelines also did not completely align with the guidelines set by the Illinois State Board of Education standards for returning to school.
The IHSA Board of Directors does not typically meet in July, but it will do so this month on a yet-to-be-determined date to decide a course of action regarding fall sports.
A number of options will be considered: delayed starts to the fall sports season to coincide with the possible later than usual opening of schools, a possible rotation of spring sports to fall and fall sports to spring, shortened seasons across the board and a possible full cancellation of the fall sports slate.
"If we have to shorten a season to provide some opportunity, that's certainly something our board will consider," Anderson said. "We simply want to provide opportunities. If we can't have physical contact, and that's going to be the directive, other sports that we could play with limited to no physical contact, maybe it still makes sense to flip seasons. A lot of those decisions are going to be made soon, but it is still on the table."
If a sports season ends up getting canceled, Anderson also didn't dismiss the possibility of trying to truncate all of the seasons in order to afford opportunities, albeit in a more limited way, to all sports.
"If we ended up flipping and then canceling the fall season, we'd end up having two spring sports seasons canceled, and that's just not good for kids, especially if that's their only sport," Anderson said. "I think if we had a season canceled, if we can, we have to provide some opportunities in shortened seasons throughout the year.
"The calendar definitely puts some added anguish on things for all of us. This is a challenging thing. Our kids, in my opinion, desperately need opportunities. Activities are a part of school; they really go hand in hand in the development of our young people. It will be my mission to steer us in a way that we can resume, and do it in a safe manner."