The highly anticipated announcement from the IHSA’s Board of Directors on Wednesday left many local coaches optimistic about a new modified schedule heading into the 2020-21 school year.
With the fall sports season scheduled to begin on Aug. 10, many wondered how the Board would navigate high contact sports such as football, boys soccer and girls volleyball around strict COVID-19 health guidelines established by the Governor’s Office.
The COVID-19 pandemic led the Board to propose unprecedented scheduling changes that include playing all sports over the course of truncated fall, winter, spring and summer seasons. As a result, several team sports will shift to new seasons, including football, boys soccer and girls volleyball moving from the fall to the spring.
IHSA boys and girls golf, girls tennis, cross country and girls swimming and diving will remain as fall sports, and can proceed to start on Aug. 10 as scheduled.
“My first thought was that I’m happy for the kids,” said Massac County Girls Volleyball Coach Zach Miller. “I look at what happened to Goreville basketball last year, who had a chance at the state title, and for a player that stinks. That’s an experience they’ll never forget, but I think everybody in Southern Illinois is still proud of what they accomplished.”
Following Governor Pritzker’s Wednesday announcement, fall sports will begin with competition limited to conference opponents and other schools in the same general geographical area. With schools being provided more details over the next week regarding scheduling, Miller believes an all SIRR-Mississippi Conference schedule would be interesting.
“The Mississippi is already a very strong conference with great coaches,” said Miller. “Josh Konkel at Nashville, my brother Isaac at Du Quoin, but when you mix in Pinckneyville’s recent hiring of the legendary Mike Layne and Nathan Emrick at Carterville, you could be in for some exciting competition.”
Acting as the high school and junior high volleyball coach, Miller wonders how the IHSA’s decision will affect middle school schedules.
“I think a lot of questions remain around how junior high sports and club volleyball teams will adjust their schedules following the IHSA’s announcement,” said Miller. “I’d be curious to see how I’d go about coaching two teams at once, but I could also see coaches being forced to pick just one.”
Many questions could be asked about weather conditions in the spring. The IHSA’s new spring schedule is set to last from Feb. 15 to May 1, which could mean all weather conditions that mother nature has to offer for Carbondale football coach Bryan Lee.
“There is still a bunch of unknown when it comes to planning and dealing with weather in the spring,” said Lee. “I’ve certainly never driven in a sleet storm to a game before, and I’m curious to see how that weather affects turf for a team that’s predicated on speed.”
One of the biggest changes for Lee and his staff could be dealing with multi-sport athletes amidst the schedule changes.
“We’ve grown so accustomed to football being the lead-off sport in a new school year,” said Lee. “There’s now this evaluation of what our kids look like after playing sports like basketball before the football season this year. They’re either going to come to us more ready or they’re going to come to us fatigued with a tweaked ankle.”
The amount of contact days and practice time before February still remains up in the air for Lee and other football programs. Lee plans on looking at the Terriers summer template and making modifications with hopes of beginning contact days in November.
“It’s a really good question to ask because it’s still not very clear if we’re allowed to begin football practices during the basketball season in November,” said Lee. “With a laundry list of questions, none of that matters because we’re going to have football. I was surprised that in a time during COVID-19 with a lot of uncertainty that our best case scenario worked out for us.”
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!