With the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announcing its plans for the 2020-21 athletic calendar, countless teams in the fall, winter and spring seasons saw their schedules change in a flash.
However, the fall season is right around the corner for four fall sports, albeit with new rules and health restrictions.
Cross-country, golf, girls swimming and diving, and girls tennis will all begin practices on Aug. 10, which is good news for high school sports and local tennis teams.
“I felt relieved for one thing. I definitely felt grateful because the kids deserve the opportunity to compete,” said Marist Coach Nicole Selvaggio. “We’ve been taking the proper precautions throughout summer camp, so the girls have good habits in place already.”
The amount of distance between competitors and the lack of physical contact in the fall sports to be conducted enable them to be played safely, but still, some changes will ensure adherence to social-distancing guidelines and health restrictions.
For tennis, Selvaggio said she is rotating tennis balls into the match more often than she previously did. Also, players must bring their own water, and racquets, water bottles or shoes cannot be shared.
Players are also encouraged to wear shorts with pockets to hold a tennis ball during a match instead of inside the leg of their shorts and skirts.
But, for the sport in general, social distancing is no problem.
“Staying apart is not too difficult. Singles are easy,” Selvaggio said. “Doubles is fairly easy, too. If the girls are covering the court the right way, they’re not together often.”
Another similarity among the fall sports will be a limited schedule with less competitions and a shorter season.
Multi-team tournaments will likely be phased out with teams relying more on dual and triangular matches.
“We’re allowed to have conference duals on the schedule, and then we can schedule matches with teams within our COVID region,” Selvaggio said. “The tournaments are still up in the air.”
Golf, according to Br. Rice Coach Mark Krizic, is also a natural for social distancing, and his team was prepared for whatever it took to have a season.
“The logistics of the sport, worst case, felt like the whole season could be moved to the spring, which wouldn’t be the worst thing,” Krizic said. “With golf, social distance is easy. You play a round with a foursome and can maintain that social distance the whole round. What we’re doing is safe.”
Krizic said he would be attending a meeting, after press time, about potential scheduling, including tournaments and the number of teams competing.
“Invitational meets could still happen,” Krizic said. “We could still do it, a meet with 60 kids playing where they’re spread out on a lot of acreage at a course. They can still maintain that social distance.”
However things turn out, Krizic is ready to have his team tee it up.
“We’re excited to have some sort of season,” Krizic said. “It’s great to hear. My guys were working all winter, and they’ve played well at tournaments this summer. We’re excited to play this fall.”
Br. Rice Coach Tom Wazio was also pleased to hear the cross-country season will go on as relatively normal this fall. But, as for how the cross-country season will proceed remains to be seen.
“We’re hoping to get more specific guidelines over the next few weeks,” Wazio said. “I told the guys when we met up, we’re going to have a season. I don’t know how it’s going to look, but we’ll be ready for it.”
Wazio described several potential options for the season, including holding dual, triangular and quadrangular meets instead of weekend invites featuring double-digit entrants from a wide area.
“We can have races where different waves start off. We can do more flight meets where a team’s seventh runner goes, then the sixth runner a few minutes later, like the Crete-Monee Pow-Wow used to do. There are lots of different talking points. Coaches are talking, though. We’ll figure out something.”