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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

New Practice Restrictions Cast Doubt Over Return Of High School Sports

Fans watching football game at Lexington High School
Jeff Smudde
Searting capacity would be limited if high school sports are allowed to resume in the fall.

Illinois high schools have sharply scaled back practices in response to new health data as their sports seasons remain in jeopardy during the pandemic.

Bloomington High School Athletic Director Tony Bauman said he initially felt good when the IHSA first announced Phase 4 return-to-play guidelines in early July.

“I think there was a general level of optimism (among) high school coaches and myself," Bauman said. “Just the reminder of these past couple of days I think has made me a little more pessimistic and doubtful that we are going to start on time with athletics and even question to ability to safely have students return to school.”

The IHSA has limited physical contact and won't allow schools to scrimmage other schools.

“We were open to the idea of bringing in one team or going to one school and doing more of a controlled scrimmage that we thought would help our athletes, but obviously when that mandate came out we didn’t even pursue anything like that,” said Bauman, adding he understands health and academics must come before athletics.

“I hate to say this, but the academics has to remain the focus and the extracurricular part of it and athletics, as important as I think it is, I don’t think it should take a priority,” he said.

Student athletes also are required to wear masks unless they are outside and are social distancing.

Normal West High School Athletic Director Wes Temples said he understands the restrictions. He said it's just good the student athletes are getting some social interaction by being with their teammates again.

“If it means pulling in their reins a little bit now for the opportunity to play come August and September, we’ll do whatever we can to help keep our kids safe and maybe have an opportunity when it comes around,” Temples said.

He noted the changes haven't impacted non-contact sports such as tennis, swimming and cross country.

Uncertainty about the upcoming school year has been tough on athletic directors everywhere, particularly for those new to the job.

Temples took over as athletic director at Normal West on July 1. He previously taught and coached football at Normal Community High School. He said it has helped to know that’s he’s not going through this alone.

“Although I’m new into the role, it’s unchartered waters for all of us,” he said.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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