The head of high school sports in Illinois said he's optimistic student athletes will be able to compete again in the fall, but he concedes it may look different.
Illinois High School Association Executive Director Craig Anderson said the IHSA is preparing for the potential that games could have limited or even no attendance if schools reopen while social distancing guidelines remain in place.
Anderson said that wouldn't be ideal, especially come postseason time.
“It’s hard to imagine, honestly,” Anderson said. “Having football playoffs without fans really hurts our bottom line and is something the association would have to look very closely at.”
The IHSA considered hosting some of the state basketball playoffs in empty venues in March before they were canceled.
Anderson added a ban on fans also would impact the revenue schools make on ticket sales and concessions, adding the association will look for guidance from the state if it would reopen schools while limiting crowd sizes.
“Based upon the types of gatherings that they indicate are safe and what that number might be,” Anderson said.
The IHSA also has banned all sports teams from gathering to practice or hold camps over the summer as long as the state's shelter-in-place order remains in effect. Anderson said if teams are allowed to organize by early August when training camps begin, he's confident fall sports will go on as planned.
“I’m optimistic we will have that opportunity,” he said. “I know that there’s others out there concerned about the entire fall season, that it may be a wash.”
Anderson said the IHSA would still allow spring sports to play this summer if the state lifts the stay-at-home order, but there would be no state tournaments. He said the association would set attendance limits if prescribed by the state and would set an acclimatization period for student athletes to practice before the season and set attendance limits if necessary.
Anderson added while it may a challenge for student athletes to stay in peak physical condition with more limited training options due to the pandemic, he urges them to maintain connections with their teammates, coaches and friends, even if it is only virtually.
“I know that’s difficult to not be face-to-face, but that’s the encouragement I offer them for their mental health,” he said.
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