ROCHELLE — As the state progresses through Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois reopening plan, IHSA officials gave student-athletes and coaches their first series of return-to-play guidelines this past Friday in order to safely reopen team facilities and resume activities.
Under the IHSA’s Stage 1 Return to Play Guidelines, athletic programs received permission to resume voluntary strength and conditioning workouts, preferably outdoors, on June 6. While the guidelines are a small step in the state’s return to normalcy, Rochelle Township High School athletic programs will be continuing with virtual workouts until the state reaches Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, which will likely include the IHSA’s second stage of athletic guidelines.
“There are a lot of restrictions still in place and it would be challenging for us to make the restrictions work,” athletic director Richard Harvey said. “We’re going to continue our virtual workouts and putting health and safety procedures in place. We’ll be talking with our coaches to make sure they understand the guidelines and they understand what they need to do.”
The Stage 1 guidelines dictate that student-athletes are limited to three hours of participation per day. Additionally, sport-specific drills are not permitted and sport-specific equipment cannot be used. Free-weight exercises that require spotting cannot be conducted due to social distancing norms, and in addition to limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer, sessions can only include weightlifting, running and exercises designed to promote physical fitness.
“Our coaches felt that we’ve been seeing good results and good participation from our virtual workouts,” Harvey said. “Our kids have been working hard to check in with coaches and communicate with them. We’ve been seeing effective results with what we’ve been doing, and if we went ahead with having up to 10 kids in the weight room, we couldn’t do any spotting and we’d have to run shifts, meaning we’d need almost nine hours to get all of the kids in.”
School-sponsored camps, clinics and open gyms are prohibited in any sport during Stage 1. As the state moves toward Phase 4, however, Harvey said the IHSA’s Stage 2 guidelines will likely follow the guidelines indicated in the state’s plan, which would include gatherings up to 50 people. During the IHSA’s meeting with state athletic directors Monday afternoon, Harvey said IHSA officials used the word “normal” to describe what activities could look like in July.
“We’re hoping that’s the case and that’s what we’re preparing for,” Harvey said. “I’m hoping we’ll be as close to normal as we possible with our Hub Power program and the camps we normally run in July… I think we’ll be close to normal, with some restrictions.”
If the state can enter Phase 4 on its projected date of June 26, IHSA’s Stage 2 guidelines could allow athletic programs to resume sport-specific workouts. Harvey said that programs which normally hold camps in June, including boys basketball and girls basketball, have expressed interest in hosting open gym sessions during the week. Harvey also said that tryouts for the RTHS cheerleading and dance programs could take place during the next phase of reopening.
“I’ve asked coaches to get back to me and let me know what their interests are,” Harvey said. “We’ll have to see if we can accommodate everybody, and there will be protocols in place.”
Harvey said the IHSA was scheduled to meet Wednesday and discuss details for Stage 2 and Stage 3 Return to Play Guidelines. Moreover, the IHSA will host its next board meeting on June 15, and athletic departments could receive more information from the IHSA regarding the future of summer activities and fall sports for the 2020-21 school year at that time.
“They’re sending out a survey that will include some of the proposals they’re discussing, which include swapping of seasons, shortening of seasons or keeping everything the same,” Harvey said. “Nothing’s off the table… I haven’t seen a survey yet, but when I receive the survey, I’ll be answering those questions to the best of my ability.”