In the United States high school sports are romanticized as the purest form of those sports. They are the teams supported by the community. You know the ticket takers and concession stand workers. That may be coming back this fall because on June 6th the IHSA laid out plans to get the students back into the weight rooms for phase one of the re-opening of high school sports in Illinois or as the IHSA calls it “Return To Play.”
The guidelines for stage one are quite stringent. You can find the full rules here.
I will just go over a few of those rules here.
Some are fairly basic. Maintaining social distancing is of course, a requirement. Another expected rule is having kids work out in groups of ten or less. The groups are to be pre-determined and once determined, kids can’t switch between groups. Other rules are much more specific, such as not being able to do sport based workouts and just getting kids back into the weight room for physical fitness purposes.
“Sessions can only include weightlifting, running and exercises designed to promote physical fitness.” That rule combined with not having a spotter (because of social distancing guidelines) means that athletes cannot do one-rep maxes or stringent workouts to rapidly build muscle, at least for now.
Another interesting rule, as mentioned above, is as follows, “sport-specific drills are not permitted and sport-specific equipment may not be used.” To break this down slightly, it sounds like this means no sled-pushing or scrimmages in the heat for football players.
The other thing worth mentioning in the new rules is that training sessions are limited to three hours per day. Therefore, these rules will allow teams to do the basic of basics physically but a big part of this will be the mental side of things.
Herscher Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach, Max Fransen, thinks these are good steps. “I believe Phase 1 of IHSA’s Return To Play plan is a positive first step towards continuing high school sports. The ability to see your athletes face-to-face, even from 6 feet away, allows coaches to see how they are doing both mentally and physically.”
Physically, of course it is important to get everyone back into shape for activity to come later but mentally, this has been a rough time for many people. This has been such a chaotic year. In my opinion, this year has been one which the world hasn’t seen in 75 years. Seeing the men and women who coach these young, impressionable kids (whom look up to their coaches as mentors and leaders) is also important.
Coach Fransen puts it this way, “Unfortunately, a lot of athletes were faced with more important issues than worrying about football when COVID-19 initially swept our nation. Some were forced to go to work and help pay the bills; some became caretakers of their younger siblings and others did not have the structure at home that is important to young adults. Despite changes in what student-athletes are familiar with when meeting in the summer, these rules will protect them while still allowing them the ability to grow and interact with their peers.”
This is important of course. You may not be able to do much physically, but again, mentally. These times will be important, not only for getting kids re-acclimated with sports but to give them a mental escape, which sports is used for so often. Sports, in high school and in general, are teamwork based. This is rather hard to integrate different classes of students together if they never can interact. This will be another key point of this first stage.
“Camaraderie and teamwork is built, in large part, by the work peers put in together towards a common goal. While there are still plenty of questions to be answered. This is a step in the right direction for Illinois high school sports.” Fransen said.
Steps, even small ones, are all we can do. They will help us get back to that pure example of sports in high school gyms and fields everywhere…. whenever that may be.