The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) approved a plan allowing 20 contact days from Sept. 7 to Oct. 31 for all sports currently not in session. These sports include football, girls soccer, boys soccer, girls lacrosse, boys lacrosse, boys basketball, girls basketball and baseball.
Schools are not allowed to scrimmage or participate in contests against other schools during this period, but are encouraged to scrimmage intra-school. The IHSA is allowing open gyms and weight rooms to continue throughout the year while following the open gym by-law.
Coaches are allowed to choose which 20 days they hold practice, but have been scheduling them based on the availability of facilities. The IHSA has stated that the contact days are an optional training period for all athletes and should not be used to determine the selection for the team once in season.
Central teams are using this time to focus on getting back to a normal routine as much as possible and to help the athletes regain a positive mindset.
“More important than anything is trying to get back to some sort of normalcy,” head football coach Mike Stine said. “Just being able to go to some sort of practice or workout after school and to get into a set daily routine to help relieve stress levels. Also, to get the mind right and get people back to socializing a little bit in person with their friends and colleagues.”
Other coaches, like girls soccer head coach Ed Watson also see the contact days as an opportunity for the athletes to see their teammates during remote learning.
“I really see them as an opportunity for social interaction, getting back and seeing your teammates and seeing your classmates, which you’re not getting because we’re not in the building,” Watson said.
The athletes say this time is necessary for individual development and growth as a team.
“We needed this extra period of time to develop,” senior starting quarterback and Purdue University commit Sam Jackson said. “This is giving us more time to come together to build something that we will always remember. It’s not much, but we really do appreciate the fact that this opportunity was given to us.”
This is a stressful time for many junior and senior athletes due to this year being a vital recruitment year. However, most athletes are using sports as a way to help cope with the stress of e-learning and COVID-19 as well.
“I think it’s so important for athletes to be playing right now,” junior girls varsity soccer player Molly O’Rear said. “The fact that we are in e-learning right now means that we need sports to help us cope with what’s going on in our education. For players who want to play in college, it is vital that they play so they can be seen by schools.”
Not only are these contact days a chance for the athletes to see each other, but also for the coaches to see the players grow and develop in their game.
“These contact days actually let coaches be involved a little bit more and allows them to have more guidance,” Stine said. “And again, just to see the kids every day for the kids to see the coaches. For us, it’s really just to help relieve some stress levels.”
The 20 fall contact days can be seen as having a large impact on the outcome of the season. For Jackson, he sees this as a time to build and develop a plan for the season.
“This will have a huge impact on the outcome of the season. We have all the pieces that we need in order for us to be a complete team. We have to take this opportunity seriously to execute the plan this season,” Jackson said.
For many sports, the season is far away now that many spring sports have moved into the summer and that fall sports have moved into the spring.