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IHSA Summer Sports Guidelines Released, Future Of Team Sports Uncertain

Sonthana Thongsithavong, Glenwood High School Tennis Coach
Sonthana Thongsithavong
Sonthana Thongsithavong, Glenwood High School Tennis Coach

An Illinois high school sports coach has mixed feelings about the state’s new guidelines on high school athletics.

Sonthana Thongsithavong, the tennis coach at Glenwood High School in Chatham, said Illinois' public health department is now allowing voluntary strength and conditioning sessions outside, but with restrictions.

He said that bodes well for his tennis players, but not so much for other sports.

“What I’m not optimistic about is will they allow certain sports to go on, you know, with certain guidelines?” Thongsithavong asked. “Are they going to allow, you know, golf and tennis to go on and not have football or volleyball?”

He said he’s concerned for what high school sports will eventually look like for fans.

“That’s parents and grandparents and family members, you know,” Thongsithavong said. “Even the student body, going, seeing, supporting their classmates, you know, have school pride, how’s that going to work?”

The Department of Public Health's new guidelines require teams with ten or more players to be separated into smaller groups. Practice time is limited to three hours per day, and the use of sport-specific equipment, certain indoor facilities, and even water jugs, is prohibited.

Thongsithavong said he supports the guidelines despite the harsh restrictions.

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said the Association worked on the original guidelines with their Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and sent them to IDPH for approval. In a statement, he commended the work of the organization.

“The IHSA Return to Play Guidelines offer some important first steps in allowing student-athletes to reacclimate both physically and mentally to athletics, but more importantly, they allow each school to assess their own individual situation and determine if and when they want to proceed.”

Thongsithavong said he’s also concerned about how the restrictions will affect the finances of high school athletics.

“A lot of schools use athletics as a fundraiser. That’s money that goes to our program. With concessions, we get a little portion of it, and t-shirt sales. It’s going to be interesting to see how that comes about once they allow competition.”

Mike Smith is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
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