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The IHSA held out as long as it could in and effort to salvage some kind of spring sports season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But as the weeks drew on with stay-at-home orders across the nation, it seemed inevitable that the spring season would be lost.
That became a reality Tuesday when the IHSA announced that, because of the coronavirus, all spring sports and activities were canceled. The spring sports are baseball, boys gymnastics, boys and girls lacrosse, girls soccer, softball, boys tennis, boys volleyball and boys and girls track and field.
The decision to cancel comes in conjunction with Friday’s announcement by Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education that all Illinois high schools will complete the 2019-20 school term from home via e-learning.
“We support the decision by Governor Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education, and given the logistics, we simply felt we could not conduct state tournaments that meet the expectations of our member schools this spring,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said. “As disappointing as it may be for students, it is the right decision for their health and safety, as well as the health and safety of the general public, as we cope with this unprecedented pandemic.”
If the state government allows sports to resume this summer, the IHSA will issue new summer guidelines for schools at that time. The IHSA also will consider allowing spring sports teams to play a limited number of games.
“Once it is determined safe to return, we will provide a detailed outline to our schools on the plan for summer contact days and possibly some kind of spring athletic events,” Anderson said. “The possibility of playing a spring sport game this summer is about closure. If we are able to offer this opportunity, no student-athlete would be restricted by having already practiced or competed with a non-school team.”
The IHSA was able to finish its wrestling and girls basketball state series before the COVID-19 outbreak became more prevalent. But it canceled the boys basketball state tournaments and other activities from the winter in mid-March. Classes 1A and 2A boys teams were prepared to go to Peoria for their Final Fours, while Classes 3A and 4A teams were ready for their sectional championships.
When Pritzker extended Illinois’ shelter-in-place order from April 7 to April 30, Anderson announced that the IHSA still hoped to have some kind of season, even if it meant pushing postseason games back into the summer months.
But, Anderson also mentioned that “any further school postponements, or the cessation of physical school attendance for the remainder of the year, will almost certainly result in the cancellation of all remaining IHSA sports and activities for this school year.”
Through people staying at home and practicing social distancing, significant progress has been made in controlling the coronavirus. But legislators and health officials do not believe the public is ready to return to normal activities yet.
“Our thoughts right now are with all the impacted students, coaches and communities,” Anderson said. “It will be difficult for them to find a silver lining in all of this, but we stress that even if they don’t get the chance to compete again at the high school level, they are better for having been part of their respective high school teams.
“By participating in high school sports and activities, they were exposed to life lessons in teamwork, leadership and overcoming adversity that are difficult to replicate elsewhere.