Student athletes in the state will be forced to scramble this summer, to be eligible for school sports during the upcoming school year.
The Illinois High School Association Board of Directors approved the Return to Play Guidelines on Monday. The guidelines were developed within the current structure of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan, allowing school districts to begin limited organized workouts for student athletes.
Jacksonville High School Athletic Director Ryan Van Aken says there was some hope that the IHSA would wave the sports physical requirement for the 2020/21 school year, and allow last year’s physicals to carry over for this season.
“They discussed it at the board meeting Monday but they did not do anything about it. So physicals will need to be had by all players for this coming fall and of course this coming school year for those who play multiple sports.
Generally speaking most of the kids get their physicals during the summer because it covers the whole year so that way if they do play more than one sport then they are good. Then when the next summer rolls around they get another one around the same date the next year. The problem is, so many of them have not had the chance to get there because until recently those types of activities were not being done due to the COVID issue.”
Van Aken says student athletes will now need to act sooner than later in order to make sure they can maintain their eligibility for the upcoming year.
“It does probably put some behind the 8 ball because there is going to be a lot of people scrambling to make appointments. Right now the best thing they can do is get a hold of their local physician. Last year we had Springfield Clinic offer free physicals to our student athletes because we work with them, within our athletic trainer, but unfortunately because of the COVID situation they are not offering it this year. There is just no way to get it done.
So we do know it’s going to be a scramble and we are just getting the word out to find a way to get an appointment because if you do not have a physical on file once practice begins, and yours runs out from the previous year, you are not going to be eligible to participate.”
The Return to Play Guidelines are aimed at student-athlete acclimatization and general physical fitness, and will not include any skill of sport training elements during Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan.
Once the state moves to Phase 4, teams will be able to begin skill of sport training elements specified to each sport.
Van Aken says although it is still not clear exactly what practices and the upcoming school athletic season will look like as the situation continues to evolve, students need to act quickly to make sure they are able to participate.
“Really right now, we know that the health concern is our number one priority. Patience is the word thrown around because we don’t know exactly what everything is going to look like. So what we can do right now is put a foot forward and hope for the best and we will see where it takes us.
And just to reiterate about the physicals, they need to get in as soon as possible, or at least get an appointment as soon as possible because they will need to have that sports physical on file to be eligible to participate in sports.”
The IHSA says the process may change at any time should conditions warrant it and that coaches, administration, and athletes should check IHSA.org for any further updates as well as the IHSA’s social media platforms.