ROCHELLE — After several months of shutdowns, mitigations and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rochelle Township High School’s winter sports programs are only days away from their first contests of the 2020-21 season. While athletic events are returning to the Hub City, there are specific protocols that RTHS, student-athletes and spectators must follow.
RTHS will allow a maximum of 50 spectators for home sporting events including bowling matches and basketball games. Spectators don’t include athletes, coaches, trainers, staff or officials. Rochelle competes within the Interstate 8 Conference, which will allow two spectators per athlete for home basketball games and bowling meets, one spectator per athlete for road basketball games and no spectators for road bowling meets. Spectators must be 30 feet away from the basketball court and all spectators and athletes must wear face coverings.
“The kids are excited to compete again,” RTHS athletic director Richard Harvey said. “We’re trying to give people an opportunity to attend events but there are quite a few restrictions we have to stay within. We’re going to do our best to get our 50 people into the gym.”
The RTHS bowling teams will open their seasons in the Oregon Hawk Classic at Dixon’s Plum Hollow Lanes on Saturday, Feb. 6. The RTHS Hub basketball team will face Stillman Valley on the road Friday, Feb. 5 for its first game of the season, while the RTHS Lady Hub basketball team hosts Sycamore for its season-opening game on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Admission charges for home basketball games include $5 for adult spectators and $3 for senior spectators.
Spectators who are unable to attend home games can stream them live on the NFHS website at www.nfhsnetwork.com for a monthly charge. The RTHS athletic department has installed a camera in the main gym for streaming purposes and will post a link to the stream online.
Doors for each basketball contest will open 30 minutes before each start time and the main gym will be cleared after each game. Tentative schedules for all of the RTHS winter sports teams have been posted on the Rochelle T.W.P. H.S. Athletics Facebook page. All winter sports seasons will conclude on Saturday, March 13.
“We’ll check our student-athletes before each practice and each game, but if they’re feeling sick, they shouldn’t attend,” Harvey said. “The kids need to wear masks, use hand sanitizer and stay 6 feet apart whenever possible. We’ve been doing those things for a while, we’ve had good luck so far and hopefully we can continue to keep our student-athletes and our coaches safe.”
Varsity and JV bowling matches will begin at 4 p.m. for all home and road contests excluding Interstate 8 Conference Championship tournaments, which will start at 1 p.m. on March 13 at DeKalb’s Mardi Gras Lanes for the girls and 9 a.m. at Peru’s Illinois Valley Super Bowl for the boys.
RTHS cheerleading and dance teams will conduct virtual competitions this season including the IHSA State Series events. Dance sectionals and state are scheduled for Feb. 27 and March 6, while cheerleading sectionals and state are scheduled for March 6 and March 12, respectively.
Spring sports teams including volleyball and soccer, as well as summer sports teams like wrestling, have already begun using out-of-season contact days, which run through June 4 and are limited to three days per week with a maximum of six hours of contact per week. The contact days were approved during the latest IHSA Board of Directors meeting Jan. 27. Sports teams like football and track and field are expected to resume contact days in the near future.
“Nothing beyond the winter is set in stone,” Harvey said. “Things are constantly changing and we’re trying to be flexible and make things as safe as possible for our kids while still accommodating as many people as possible. Hopefully we can get it done.”