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PEDELTY BOX: What might high school sports look like in 2020-21?

IHSA forced to craft multiple plans during pandemic

High school football played in the spring?

Softball in the fall?

Some sports returning during the 2020-21 school year while others are kept on hold?

Shortened seasons across the board?

There may not be any high school sports going on in Illinois right now, but there are plenty of high school sports rumors flying around as speculation builds as to what a 2020-21 sports calendar might or could look like in the age of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Illinois High School Association Executive Director Craig Anderson has said in recent interviews there are multiple options on the drawing board, but no decisions as of yet. Which is, of course, as it should be. Despite some criticism at the time, I applauded the IHSA not rushing its decision on canceling the 2020 spring state series, instead taking its time and holding out hope things might change.

Things of course didn’t change – as I’m sure you all are painfully aware – and on April 21, the organization made the heart-wrenching decision to call it quits on the spring season without a single track and field meet, softball game, boys tennis match, girls soccer contest or baseball game played. Again, the right decision.

In fact, it’s difficult to find fault with any of the decisions the IHSA has made during this unexpected and unprecedented time. As a fan of high school sports in addition to being someone who makes his living covering them (though as you may have noticed, I’ve been branching out quite a bit during these sportless times), I hope the IHSA can keep its run of smart, well-thought-out decisions going.

Because there are some real doozies coming up ... decisions with more pitfalls than an Atari 2600 convention.

Can some lower-contact/friendlier-for-distancing sports (cross country, golf, tennis, etc.) be played while higher-contact/impossible-to-distance sports (football, soccer, volleyball, etc.) are not? How will those families react when they cannot participate in the sports they love while others can?

Could a switch of seasons (football/volleyball to the spring; baseball/softball to the fall) potentially allow sports where players are mostly spread out to be played sooner, and sports with players crammed more tightly together to be played when social distancing isn’t as vital a tool against the spread of this novel coronavirus?

Or might a condensed sports calendar not starting until, say, November, and running into June be the best formula for preserving as many sports as possible for as many young student-athletes as possible while also potentially keeping those student-athletes and their families safe?

Or is there a chance – some glorious chance – that maybe, just maybe, things could be more or less back to normal come August, and the IHSA will be ready to kick off the 2020-21 school year with fall sports per usual?

To a certain degree, a large portion of these decisions will be out of the IHSA’s hands. It will almost certainly have to follow the lead of the state government and the IHSA’s own member schools. No school in session almost certainly means no school sports; restricted/reduced school almost certainly means restricted/reduced school sports.

But it’s imperative the IHSA has a plan – or, more accurately, plans – to deal with whatever comes down the pike.

For now, at least, pretty much everything seems to be on the table.

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