Pritzker announces restrictions on high school sports

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a plan to restrict youth and high school sports on Wednesday.

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Montini’s Deontay Bell receives the snap during a preseason practice last year.

Montini’s Deontay Bell receives the snap during a preseason practice last year.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Any hope for a high school football season this fall seems to be gone. Gov. J.B. Pritzker released a set of restrictions on high school, youth and adult recreational sports on Wednesday. Football, which is categorized as a higher-risk sport, will only be allowed non-contact practices according to the state’s current guidelines.

Pritzker’s surprise announcement stole the thunder from the Illinois High School Association’s board of directors, which is expected to reveal a full plan for this year’s high school sports schedule later Wednesday.

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

“The NBA has resorted to containing its players in a bubble to press on with its season. MLB is facing down a major outbreak. This virus is unrelenting and it spreads so easy that no amount of restrictions seems to keep it off the playing field.”

Pritzker released a set of guidelines for youth and high school sports on the state’s coronavirus website.

Fall sports played in Illinois include football, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls golf, boys soccer, girls swimming, girls tennis, girls volleyball. Practices were scheduled to begin on Aug. 10.

“It’s very painful, frankly, for all of us to make this realization,” Pritzker said. “With rising rates of spread and rising positivity rates throughout Illinois and the United States this is a situation where the toughest choice is also the safest choice.”

Pritzker’s guidelines divide sports into three risk levels: lower, medium and higher. The sports in each risk level are allowed different amounts of play based on current public health conditions.

According to the state’s current conditions the lower risk sports (tennis, baseball, golf) will be allowed to have local games. Medium level sports (basketball) can have no-contact practices.

Pritzker’s full set of guidelines is here.

The IHSA shut down the boys state basketball tournament on March 12, the day before the Class 1A and 2A semifinals were scheduled. Spring sports tournaments were canceled on April 21.

Summer workouts and practices have been allowed under various shifting guidelines for the past few months.

Check back for more on this developing story.

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