IESA Executive Director, Steve Endsley, released a statement on Dec. 29 discussing the Governor’s decision to keep Illinois under the Tier 3 mitigations.

“We have received an official announcement from the Governor’s Office that the state of Illinois remains in Tier 3 mitigations,” Endsley wrote via email. “As a result, all school activities remain “paused” and no practices or interscholastic contests may be held. Boys basketball practice which is scheduled to begin January 4 may not start on that date and I believe it is safe to assume that girls volleyball should be paused as well when it is scheduled to start January 11.”

Endsley went on to say that the news is unsurprising and that the IESA will no longer set new start dates for boy’s basketball or girl’s volleyball. “Given Illinois continues to remain in Tier 3 mitigations, this news is not totally unexpected. Yet, it is another setback to the safe return of interscholastic activities for IESA member schools. We will no longer establish new season dates for boys basketball and girls volleyball. As we have seen since mid-July, these sports which are considered medium risk and high risk are not going to be allowed to be held until they are moved to low risk and/or Illinois moves into Phase 5 of Restore Illinois. It would be an effort in futility to once again set up arbitrary dates for these sports only to once again be told by the Governor’s Office and IDPH that they cannot start on the dates IESA established. Rather than set new dates, which then requires the athletic director to re-schedule contests, find new officials, etc., we will await word from the Governor’s Office and IDPH when activities will be allowed to resume. When that word is given, we will then convene a meeting of the IESA Board of Directors to decide our plan moving forward and immediately notify the IESA membership of the new schedule.”

All other start dates for activities outside of boy’s basketball and girl’s volleyball remain the same. “The other activities which have dates established are not changing at this point in time. For instance, girls basketball is scheduled to start March 5. That date is not being changed as a result of this announcement. It is possible we will still be in Tier 3 on March 5 which will then necessitate a change. Or, maybe we will be allowed to play by March 5. Who knows? But it makes no sense to set new dates for boys basketball and girls volleyball without knowing what the future holds. Our hope is that we will still be able to conduct some type of season for all but one of our sports and activities. The only activity which has been officially cancelled is the chess competition. Nothing else has been cancelled.”

“Keep in mind that depending on when the Governor’s Office and/or the IDPH gives us the green light to return to play, we could be facing an almost impossible challenge of trying to conduct a season in all activities with very little time left in the 2020-21 school year,” Endsley said. “Should we get the green light in April to return to play, think of the challenges for the schools, the students, the coaches, availability of contest officials, etc. if girls basketball, boys basketball, girls volleyball, boys wrestling, and girls and boys track and field are attempted to be held in April and May. Throw in the activities of scholastic bowl, music, bowling, and perhaps cheerleading and the task to do everything in two months becomes even more difficult. These will be the issues the IESA Board of Directors must tackle when they convene to determine a plan moving forward if/when we are allowed to return to play. Schools need to know that the Board has already decided to not try and hold IESA activities at nighttime in June.”

Endsley said that while he understands the concern, the IESA’s hands remain tied under the direction of the governor’s office. “This is a difficult letter to send to the IESA membership. Quite frankly, I am personally tired of giving the membership disappointing news every time I write. We need students participating. They need that for their social, emotional, and mental health well-being. IESA wants students to participate in school activities just as much as the schools, coaches, and parents want the students to participate. Organizing and administering interscholastic activities is what we do. We want to provide opportunities. Our hands our tied because of the Tier 3 mitigations imposed by the Governor’s Office and IDPH on the schools in Illinois. Schools must follow those directives. As difficult as that is to accept, it is what must be done. Please take whatever steps are necessary to make sure your boys basketball practice does not begin January 4 and girls volleyball practice does not begin January 11. When those activities can resume and for that matter when any IESA activity can be held, we will immediately notify the membership.”

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