It may look different and could be filled with multiple challenges, but the Illinois High School Association’s decision to provide opportunities for high school basketball players and wrestlers during the current school year is welcomed by Quad-City area coaches.
“None of us know how things will work out, but at this point there is still a chance and that’s what kids want,’’ Riverdale girls basketball coach Jay Hatch said. “They want that chance to compete.’’
The IHSA Board of Directors took a step in the direction toward having a season on Wednesday, approving plans to proceed with high school boys and girls basketball during the winter season as scheduled and moving the Illinois prep wrestling season this school year from winter to a summer season.
Under the plan, basketball teams in the state would be allowed to begin practices on Nov. 16 and would join boys swimming & diving, boys and girls bowling, girls gymnastics and competitive cheer and dance in competition during a season that will run from Nov. 30 through Feb. 13.
Wrestling will shift from that schedule to the IHSA’s “summer season,’’ with practices beginning on April 19 and the season running through June 26.
Local school districts will ultimately decide whether their teams will compete this school year and the IHSA is requiring all COVID-19 mitigation requirements to be followed.
In basketball, all participating players, coaches and officials will be required to wear masks among other measures.
Games, at this point, will likely be played without any spectators in the stands although the IHSA Board of Directors will revisit those guidelines which have been in place throughout the fall sports season next month.
Rock Island boys basketball coach Thom Sigel understands the seriousness of the coronavirus and respects a wide range of viewpoints that extend well beyond high school athletics.
“A lot of people have been impacted and it is a serious thing,’’ Sigel said. “We approach it that way, understanding it all, and appreciating that we all have to live with it right now the best we can.’’
Sigel said he believes offering high school athletes a chance to have an outlet to compete can be a positive.
The IHSA allowed coaches to have 20 contact days with their players during recent offseason weeks and Sigel said players in his program have adjusted.
“We follow the guidelines. We take temperatures, wipe down basketballs over and over, the guys wear masks, we do it all and will continue to do so,’’ Sigel said. “Everything that the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association suggests, we do and we do everything we can to protect the kids the best we can.’’
Beyond having to give an occasional reminder to a player to wear a mask the right way, Hatch said things are working out.
The IHSA plans to release sport-by-sport mitigation requirements Thursday, something that could include things such as required social distancing on team benches.
“The players want a season, they want a chance to compete and we’ve talked about it, we may have games postponed or canceled,’’ Hatch said. “That may well be part of it this season, but we plan to appreciate any chance we have to compete. It’s going to be a different year.’’
For wrestlers, it going to be an entirely different time of year.
Geneseo wrestling coach Jon Murray is glad that the IHSA Board of Directors approved a request first presented by the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association to shift the season from winter to early summer.
“Our ultimate goal is to have a state series and a state tournament and we all realized that was not going to be possible during the normal wrestling season. It just wasn’t going to happen, but by moving to summer that chance is still there,’’ Murray said.
Like their basketball peers, wrestlers have continued to train and with no high school season for many that training is occurring as part of wrestling clubs.
“They’re out there working and those guys, they really want to compete,’’ Murray said. “It’s going to be a very strange winter for a lot of our guys. Even for me, I’ve been around wrestling since I was six years old. This will be different.’’
And, there are some challenges created by the change of seasons.
“Some guys expect they may have to leave for college or perhaps the military before that new season ends and you feel for them,’’ Murray said. “For some, it’s not an ideal scenario, but I’m glad to see it move forward. It will give a lot of kids a chance to participate and that’s a really important part of this.’’
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