IDPH officially approves IHSA’s Return to Play Plan

Darren Kinnard

The IHSA finally has official approval from the Illinois Department of Public Health for its modified sports schedules and plans.

The IHSA released its schedules and plans for the upcoming school year back on July 29th. Those were based on guidance from the IDPH, but ultimately needed official approval. The IHSA was allowing schools to move ahead with fall sports practices and competitions, but some school districts, such as Carbondale, were waiting for the formal approval.

The lack of IDPH approval led Carbondale to postpone the South 7 boys golf Preview Tournament scheduled for Thursday (8/13) at Hickory Ridge Golf Course. The tournament was rescheduled for Monday (8/17), and Carbondale Athletic Director Mark Albertini said the Terriers now have the green light from the school board to host and play.

The IDPH approval came Friday, days after more guidelines were added to the IHSA’s Return to Play at the IDPH’s recommendation. Those additions were largely centered around face coverings. Golfers, for example, must wear face coverings on the course when not actively playing (striking the ball). All spectators and coaches (when not actively playing) are required to wear masks. Another guideline added the requirement of six foot social distancing, as well as facial coverings, on busses for golf and tennis.

These additional guidelines have drawn considerable criticism from coaches and administrators for a lack of consistency. The mandatory face coverings for high school golfers between shots is different than the guidelines for the general public golfing that were set out in the Phase 4 of Governor’s Restore Illinois Plan. The social distancing requirement for transportation also drew the ire of administrators considering the ISBE directive allows no more than 50 students to be on a bus at one time, with social distancing maintained “to the greatest extent possible.” Golf and tennis teams take vans or small busses to road meets due to small numbers on their teams. The six foot social distancing requirement is leading many schools to have to use full size busses for transportation.

Practices for all fall sports are underway. Contests for boys and girls golf started August 13. Girls tennis contests can start August 20, with boys and girls cross country contests to start August 24.