ROCHELLE — When the IHSA announced this past month that all spring state tournaments would be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, attention quickly turned to summer contact days and possible outlooks for the 2020-21 fall sports season.
Schools around the state remain closed under Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, and the IHSA has suspended summer contact days indefinitely. The combined restrictions have made offseason preparation difficult for fall programs including the Rochelle Township High School football team, which has seen activities slow down until restrictions are lifted.
“It’s had a significant impact on us on a day-to-day level,” head coach Kyle Kissack said. “I’m fortunate to have some contact with our kids, but it’s unfortunate that we didn’t have the chance to be with the kids and grow together over the fourth quarter of the school year.”
With current restrictions in mind, the football staff has taken the creative route to jump-start its annual Hub Power summer strength and conditioning program, which will include virtual workouts for student-athletes to complete at home. Kissack said the team will meet on Thursday via Google Meet to get organized before student-athletes begin their summer workouts next week.
“We’ve built a program for the kids that really mimics the program we’d run during the summer, but we’ve made a number of adjustments based on what our kids may have available to them” Kissack said. “We think the structure of our program will give our kids the opportunity not only to develop their strength, but their speed and explosiveness as well.”
The IHSA’s summer contact suspension could pose issues for summer camps and practices. The football program typically holds its youth football camp and its two-week padded camp in late July. The IHSA schedule marks Monday, Aug. 10 as the start of the 2020 football season, but the current suspension may force the Hubs to proceed without their normal summer activities.
“Everybody in the state is in the same position,” Kissack said. “We’re in a holding pattern until we get clearance from the state. We’re ready to hit the ground running as soon as we get the green light, and we’re planning for the opportunity to have those events, but we’re at the mercy at the state. If we have the opportunity to get going, we’ll be ready to go.”
Kissack said the coaching staff has been in contact with its players on a daily basis. The Hubs are currently scheduled to host Pekin for their 2020 season-opener on Aug. 28. The IHSA will hold its next board meeting on June 15 to determine what’s next for high school sports in Illinois.
“I actually think that slowing down is good for our kids,” Kissack said. “What’s hard is that high school athletics are about the kids, and I feel bad for the kids who weren’t able to compete in the spring and who may not have the opportunity to compete in the fall. But time off isn’t a bad thing either, and some kids have been playing sports every day for the last three years. Taking some time to rest, evaluate and appreciate the opportunity to compete is a good thing.”