No Fall Football And Soccer At Illinois High Schools To Stem Spread Of COVID-19

The new restrictions on youth sports come as Gov. JB Pritzker pointed to coronavirus outbreaks linked to youth sports and the Miami Marlins.

high school football players
High school football players participate in the IHSA Class 1A championship high school football game Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Ill. Under new state coronavirus guidelines, football is considered a high-risk sport. Matt Marton / Associated Press
high school football players
High school football players participate in the IHSA Class 1A championship high school football game Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Ill. Under new state coronavirus guidelines, football is considered a high-risk sport. Matt Marton / Associated Press

No Fall Football And Soccer At Illinois High Schools To Stem Spread Of COVID-19

The new restrictions on youth sports come as Gov. JB Pritzker pointed to coronavirus outbreaks linked to youth sports and the Miami Marlins.

There will be no football, boys soccer and girls volleyball seasons at Illinois high schools this fall as the state deals with the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new schedule for the academic year released on Wednesday by the body that governs high school sports.

These three high-contact sports will be moved to the spring under a schedule that calls for shortened seasons for all sports during the school year. Lower risk sports — like golf, cross country and girls tennis and swimming — can still be played this fall. The IHSA’s plan, which is subject to further change, still needs approval from the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH).

This announcement came soon after Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker laid out strict new guidelines for youth sports, including at schools, private clubs and leagues and through park district programs, that classified certain sports according to their risk level. Contact sports, such as football, hockey, boxing, lacrosse, wrestling, competitive cheer and competitive dance are all deemed to be at a higher risk level for spreading the coronavirus.

As the state has seen gradually increasing case numbers in recent weeks, Pritzker’s administration is now advising those higher risk sports to limit their activities to no-contact practices and training — but no games.

“For right now, this is the best thing that we can do for the health and safety of our families under the current circumstances,” Pritzker said.

The state is classifying soccer, basketball and volleyball as medium risk sports, meaning those athletes can currently scrimmage, but not play competitively.

Only sports that have been labeled as low-risk can currently be played competitively, such as cross country, tennis, golf, swimming and diving, gymnastics, crew and baseball.

Football Coach Tim Racki of Nazareth Academy in west suburban La Grange supports the new guidelines and schedule. He said he only hopes everyone follows social distancing rules so there will actually be a spring high school football season.

“I think I just have to be cautiously optimistic and hope people are going to be safe and we can get this under control,” Racki said.

Pritzker warned that the state has already seen outbreaks tied to youth sports, and allowing them to go forward without restrictions could lead to coaches, families and teachers getting sick.

“When the multi-billion dollar sports leagues with multi-million dollar athletes are struggling to protect their players, it’s obvious there won’t be enough protection for kids on our school playing fields,” Pritzker said.

Since the state allowed for indoor dining and gatherings of up to 50 people at the end of June, Illinois has seen a consistent uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases, particularly outside of St. Louis.

Even Chicago has seen five straight days of increased case positivity rates and hospital admissions, according to the state’s metrics. If the city experiences seven consecutive days of increases, then it is subject to stricter regulations by the state.

On Wednesday, the state announced 1,393 new COVID-19 cases out of 38,187 tests, and another 18 deaths. In all, 7,472 deaths in Illinois have been attributed to the coronavirus.

Tony Arnold covers Illinois state politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.

WBEZ’s Susie An and Kate Grossman contributed to this story. Follow them @WBEZeducation.