Rochelle athletic teams adjusting to revised IHSA schedule

The Rochelle Township High School football team will have to wait until at least February 2021 to take the field after the IHSA revised its athletic calendar for the 2020-21 school year. (Photo by Marcy DeLille)

Football moved to spring, traditional spring sports pushed to summer

ROCHELLE — The 2020-21 IHSA athletic calendar will have a much different look this coming school year, and Rochelle Township High School teams are making adjustments as some teams prepare to compete this fall and others are forced to wait until next spring or later.

The IHSA Board of Directors approved a four-season athletic schedule this past Wednesday that will begin with fall sports (boys and girls cross country, boys and girls golf, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving) on Aug. 10. The decision immediately followed Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s new guidelines for sports, which defined each of the four IHSA fall sports as low-risk sports.

Under the new state guidelines, sports are divided into three categories (low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk) and are allowed to compete at four levels. Low-risk sports can compete at Level 3, which includes conference meets, conference tournaments and state tournaments.

“I’m happy that our kids will have an opportunity to compete in the sports we’ll have this fall and participate in athletics this year,” RTHS athletic director Richard Harvey said. “We’re moving forward with what the IHSA has given us and we’re going to make the best of it.”

Fall sports will run from Aug. 10 through Oct. 24, with the winter sports season scheduled to begin Nov. 13 and end Feb. 13, 2021. RTHS programs slated to compete in the winter include wrestling, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls bowling, cheerleading and dance. Only bowling is defined as a low-risk sport, however, whereas basketball is considered medium-risk and cheerleading, dance and wrestling are considered high-risk sports by the state.

Medium-risk sports can only compete at Level 2 of the state guidelines, which permit team scrimmages with parental consent for minors and no competitive play. High-risk sports are stuck at Level 1 of the state guidelines, which permit no-contact practices and training only. The state has not provided a timetable for how sports can progress through the four-level system.

“I’m hoping we can get to a point where we can conduct all of our winter sports,” Harvey said. “If we can’t start winter sports on time, they will be delayed, and if we can’t start after the delay, the IHSA will attempt to move them. If they can’t be moved, they’ll have to be canceled.”

Perhaps the most notable change in the 2020-21 IHSA athletic calendar is the decision to move traditional fall sports like football, boys soccer and girls volleyball to the spring season, which begins Feb. 15, 2021 and ends May 1, 2021. The IHSA approved an additional 20 contact days for winter, spring and summer programs to use in the fall from Sept. 7 through Oct. 31. Soccer and volleyball are listed as medium-risk sports, while football is considered a high-risk sport.

“The postponement is a reality of the climate we’re currently living through and adjustments need to be made in the best interest of all kids in all sports,” head football coach Kyle Kissack said. “We will continue to build workouts for our kids and hold them to the standard we always have. I’m so impressed with our group and how they’ve embraced the challenges in front of them. Our summer workouts were marked with great participation and attitudes.”

“I’m happy that we will still be able to have a season,” head volleyball coach Molly Sly said. “I’m going to miss the first few days of practice where school hasn’t started and all we have is volleyball. It’s special to see the excitement the girls have in starting a new season and a new school year. It’s always a great to start the school year and the athletic seasons. We still plan to hold open-gym workouts and scrimmages in December or possibly sooner if we are able.”

Another significant move by the IHSA is the creation of a summer season spanning from May 3, 2021 through June 26, 2021. Sports such as baseball (low-risk), softball (low-risk), boys and girls track and field (low-risk), boys tennis (low-risk) and girls soccer (medium-risk) will be played during the summer, which spans only eight weeks and is the shortest of the four seasons.

“We’re definitely going to have to do more work in the offseason to prepare for a shorter season,” head girls track coach Alison Vrana said. “We won’t have an indoor season to prepare and I’m worried that a shortened competitive schedule will have a domino effect on the preparation of our athletes, particularly in technical events like jumps and throws. I’m also disappointed that track and field only gets eight weeks to compete… It’s unfair.”

“I think the IHSA did the best it could with the circumstances,” head baseball coach Jarrod Reynolds said. “Hopefully the kids will be able to participate in all the sports they normally play. I hope there aren’t any conflicts with travel baseball, and I think we will be OK here locally. The weather should be nicer from a baseball perspective, so that should be a plus for us.”

With Rochelle schools and many schools around the state moving toward hybrid learning models, combining in-person learning with remote learning, the IHSA ruled that remote learning wouldn’t prevent student-athletes from competing in sports this coming school year. The IHSA also ruled that decisions regarding state tournaments will be made on a sport-by-sport basis. No decisions on activities such as bass fishing, chess, debate, drama and group interpretation, individual events, journalism, music and scholastic bowl have been made.

RTHS student-athletes seeking to participate in athletics this coming school year must sign a waiver or have a parent or guardian sign a waiver and have the waiver submitted to a coach or the athletic department. The waiver can be found at http://www.rthsd212.org/athletic-forms-and-information or on the Rochelle T.W.P. H.S. Athletics Facebook page.

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