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ADs, coaches still learning about new IHSA plan

Now that area high school coaches and athletics directors know the plans for athletic competitions during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are busy trying to determine the specifics of those plans and hammer out schedules.
The Illinois High School Association, the governing agency for high school sports in Illinois, announced those plans after consulting with Gov. JB Pritzker and state health officials.
Under that plan, some fall sports, including football, are being moved to the spring. Other sports, including boys and girls basketball, have later starting dates.
And, spring sports, including baseball, softball and track, start in May and complete their seasons at the end of June.
Jason Clay, the athletic director at Vandalia Community High School, said on Monday that he is working this week to flush out the details of the plan and start on implementing it.
Under the IHSA plan released last week, fall sports run from Aug. 10-Oct. 24; winter sports from Nov. 16-Feb. 13; spring sports from Feb. 15-May 1; and summer sports from May 3-June 26.
“Right now, the big focus is the overall plan, trying to figure that out,” said Clay, who will also be refocusing his efforts for the football and wrestling teams he coaches at VCHS.
He said the Illinois athletic directors’ association was holding a virtual meeting later that day, and that South Central Conference AD’s were meeting virtually on Tuesday.
“I think that just getting the schedules is going to be a big thing,” Clay said. “Even with the sports that are in the right seasons, we’re still off a little bit on the dates.
“So, we’re going to have to rearrange the schedules and once you’ve done that, then you’ve got to look at (scheduling) officials,” he said.
Clay said the SCC AD’s were going to get started on the conference schedules on Tuesday. “Then, that gives me the chance to fill things in (with non-conference opponents in this COVID-19 zone),” he said.
Then, the work begins on getting officials for the various sports.
“A lot of this is done a year ahead of time, so it’s going to be kind of scrambling,” he said. “But, everybody’s in the same position.
“Hopefully, officials will be willing to work and able to work,” Clay said. “It’s also a little different for them, so we’ll know in time how that’s going to work out.”
As far as football, which would begin in the middle of February and end at the beginning of May, “I think we’ll get some guidance on what we’re allowed to do.
“At first, we’ll probably be in the mode of weightlifting, like we traditionally do in the spring” for those athletes who are not participating in fall sports.
At VCHS, girls tennis and golf are the two sports allowed in the fall under the new IHSA plan.
“I think at some point they are going to give out contact days for the fall, possibly 20 contact days, when we could do some skill work, get outside and so some things,” Clay said.
Later, he assumes, would be allowances for seven-on-seven and intrasquad games.
“How the levels (of IDPH risk) change, I haven’t been told how support goes from level to level,” Clay said. “I don’t know if they even know that yet.”
As of right now, “We’re going to get junior high baseball and softball (practices) started today, and then, after that, we’ll start working toward golf and tennis for the high school … and go from there,” he said.
“It’s kind of an evolving process, and we’re trying to get it all set up now, and it (may) change again,” Clay said.
Another of the VCHS coaches, boys basketball coach Brian Buscher, is also waiting for more details.
“I don’t know what exactly to do,” Buscher said. “I’m being honest.”
The IHSA “contact days” for basketball are Sept. 7-Oct. 31, and Buscher said he currently is planning to start out going two days a week with his players, then increase to three days a week, “just to kind of ramp it up.
“But we’re still going to do weight room,” he said.
“I think we can still do conditioning stuff, like weight room and running and things like that now. As far as I know we can do some stuff until Sept. 7,” he said.
Buscher said that as he understands it, there is a two-week period between the contact days and the actual start of practices for the season.
“I think we can still do conditioning, but that’s stuff we’ve got to find out,” he said.
Buscher said that looking at the plan, he believes there is a maximum of two games per week between Nov. 30 and Feb. 13.
“That’s 20 games, but one week is Christmas and one week is New Year’s,” he said.
“They also have a thing that you can’t have tournaments … except three-team tournaments,” Buscher said. “But you’re still limited to two games a week.
“I guess everybody assumes the (Vandalia) Holiday Tournament is gone,” he said.
The current plan allows games among conference teams and teams in the school’s EMS (emergency medical services) region. “We’re the only school in our EMS region,” Buscher said.
He has talked to Clay about the possible options for the boys team. Those include two games with each SCC team or once with each team in a conference shootout, he said.
As for games outside the conference and inside the EMS region, Vandalia could go to Shelby County or Macon County, east to Effingham County and also down to the Flora and Olney area, he said.
Buscher said it’s unclear what the postseason will look like, though it’s expected to be abbreviated, to just regional or district competitions.
“There won’t be a state tournament per se,” he said.

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