By James Kay
Illinois high school sports are (kind of) back.
After working with the Illinois Department of Health, the IHSA announced on July 3 that it's been approved to move to Stage 2, paving the way for programs to hold sport-specific workouts. Before the July 3 announcement, teams were restricted to strength and conditioning workouts and could only be in groups of 10 people or fewer.
Under the latest Return to Play guidelines, students can practice up to five hours a day while teams can hold indoor and outdoor workouts with groups of up to 50 people.
"Safety remains at the forefront of everything that the IHSA is doing as we move into Phase 4 and beyond," said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson in the press release.
"We appreciate the collaborative efforts of the SMAC and IDPH in recognizing the physical, mental, and emotional benefits for our student-athletes and coaches as they progress into training in a more traditional practice setting. Our focus now shifts to continuing to work with state leadership to determine how to provide the safest environment possible for fall sports."
While this is a huge step for the return of high school sports in the state, there are still restrictions and safety measures that fall under Stage 2.
Before programs can get back out of the field, each school must get approval from its administration on what activities teams can run. Players must be screened before practice to see if they exhibit COVID-19-related symptoms and must have a temperature that is under 100.4 degrees. If any player exhibits these symptoms before practice, they are not permitted to practice and must be cleared by a physician before returning to practice. Athletes must also bring their own water bottles.
Teams are also encouraged to have hand sanitizer stations, make sure players aren't sharing equipment and maintain social distancing when athletes aren't participating in a drill.
In terms of when teams return to game action this fall, coaches and other personnel must wear masks on the sidelines. There must also be 30 feet of distance between groups of 50 people while those not participating on the field must maintain social distancing on the sidelines.
One intriguing element of gameplay this fall is that it's up to the school whether spectators can attend events. If the school does permit people to attend games, stadiums can only be filled to 20 percent of their capacity. There must be six feet of distance between "families or household units" in the designated seating area for spectators.
You can find the Stage 2 guidelines here.
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