ROCHELLE — With the IHSA enacting its Phase 4 Return to Play Guidelines this past Friday, Rochelle Township High School student-athletes are transitioning from virtual workouts and returning to team facilities to continue the remainder of their summer activities.
Originally titled Stage 2 before IDPH approval, the Phase 4 Return to Play Guidelines permit gatherings up to 50 people as well as sport-specific workouts and spotters for strength training. The Phase 4 Return to Play Guidelines also allow multiple gatherings up to 50 people as long as the groups maintain at least 30 feet of distance. Each student-athlete will undergo a brief COVID-19 screening, which includes temperature and symptom checks, before each workout.
“We want to make sure we’re keeping our kids safe and following the right protocols,” RTHS athletic director Richard Harvey said. “We’ve talked with our coaches and we want to make sure we’re using our common sense… It’s great that our kids can reconnect with their teammates and coaches and that they have an opportunity to improve themselves.”
The RTHS athletic department met with coaches Monday afternoon to discuss the school’s plan for utilizing its 20 summer contact days, which the IHSA approved for all high schools during its June board meeting. RTHS teams will utilize the 20 contact days over the next four weeks before taking a one-week break from activities and beginning the fall sports season Aug. 10.
“We spoke with our coaches about what the remainder of their summer looked like,” Harvey said. “Our football program put a camp together and a lot of our other sports are doing skills camps where the kids can come in and compete in open gyms… The contact days will give coaches an opportunity to work with their kids so they can get back into a groove.”
Before student-athletes can participate in team activities, however, they or their parents or guardians must sign a liability waiver, which can be obtained from the Rochelle T.W.P. H.S. Athletics Facebook page or through contacting RTHS coaches or the RTHS athletic department. Student-athletes must also bring and wear masks when social distancing cannot occur.
“We felt that it was important to inform our parents that there are some risks with this process,” Harvey said. “We’re going to do our best to keep our kids safe. The kids are checked before they come in and they have to have their hands sanitized and maintain social distancing whenever possible. We clean the weight room before and after each session. Our maintenance staff and Ronda [Poliska] have done an excellent job in helping prepare us to do this.”
The Phase 4 Return to Play Guidelines are a significant step forward not only for student-athletes, but for fans as well. The Phase 4 Return to Play Guidelines state that fans will be allowed to attend athletic contests, which must remain under 50 people, at a capacity not exceeding 20 percent of the venue. Harvey said the RTHS athletic department plans to provide attendance vouchers to each student-athlete that will cover his or her immediate family.
“Those vouchers will be presented as families come into the game,” Harvey said. “We’re estimating that about 800 people will be able to attend our football games, so that total will most likely include only immediate family members. We’re working on finding ways to utilize livestreaming so that we can stream as many of our athletic events as possible.”
Harvey said he expects the IHSA to remain in Phase 4 of its Return to Play Guidelines as long as the state remains in Phase 4 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois reopening plan. While the IHSA has not made any formal announcements regarding fall sports, Harvey said he and other athletic directors around the state are preparing as if they’ll undergo a normal fall season.
“I don’t think the IHSA will add anything until we enter Phase 5,” Harvey said. “There hasn’t been any indication if we are or aren’t having fall sports… There are a lot of things we don’t know yet, but we as athletic directors are preparing the best we can to have a season, and we’ve discussed how we’ll deal with spectators and keeping our student-athletes safe.”
The complete Phase 4 Return to Play Guidelines can be found at https://www.ihsa.org/documents/Phase4RTP.pdf. Both English and Spanish versions of the RTHS COVID-19 waiver can be found at https://www.facebook.com/WeRHubs/.