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'There are still positives': DeKalb County league sport coaches react to IHSA restrictions

Sycamore head coach Jill Carpenter celebrates with her team after in the defeating DeKalb 5-4 Thursday April 19.
Sycamore head coach Jill Carpenter celebrates with her team after in the defeating DeKalb 5-4 Thursday April 19.

When it comes to the upside of the IHSA decision to move softball into the summer, Sycamore coach Jill Carpenter said at least there's unlikely to be snowouts.

And while she's glad the IHSA's plan to split sports over four seasons this year gives everyone a chance to have a season and not repeat what happened with all spring sports being wiped out last school year, she said there's still room for improvement in the plan.

"Since we're in the low-risk category it would be nice if we could give it a go in the fall," Carpenter said. "I'm pumped for the contact days in September and October but it would be great if we could use these for games, play Kaneland, play DeKalb, play Genoa all locally."

The IHSA announced changes to its sports schedule for the 2020-21 school year. Football, girls volleyball and boys soccer will compete in the spring of 2021 while softball, baseball and track will compete in the summer of 2021 in May and June.

The IHSA announcement came hours after Gov. JB Pritzker announced restrictions at sports on all levels. Low-risk sports – which include baseball, bowling, cross country, badminton, gymnastics, softball, tennis and track and field – can compete at Level 3 of 4, which includes conference or league play and conference and state championships.

The restrictions apply to sports at every level except college and professional, not just high school.

The low-risk designation has Carpenter hoping for some sort of fall league ahead of the newly scheduled summer season.

"It would be great if they could give us a little taste here," Carpenter said. "Like 10 games or something during the 20 contact days."

Carpenter said she was also worried about the high school season bumping up against travel ball.

But those travel leagues will also have to play under the same restrictions – such as no tournaments and no out-of-state travel.

Kishwaukee Valley Storm 16 and under coach Steve Heide called the restrictions a step backward.

"We can still play intra-state games, but it looks like we can't travel," Heide said. "We can't go to St. Louis for a tournament. As long as we stay six feet apart in the dugout, go down the side of the fence. We did it in Beloit. It can be done."

The Storm are in the middle of hosting tryouts and Heide said the numbers are down so far. The various teams did get some tournaments in this year, with the 16U team playing in four and the 18U playing in five.

"I attribute that to a lot of this. People are nervous," Heide said. "But we went to these tournaments, and I didn't really see anybody concerned."

At the rec level, DeKalb Park District superintendent of recreation and facilities Greg Bruggeman said baseball and softball leagues run by the district won't change.

But there will be issues with planned volleyball, soccer and basketball leagues – all considered medium-risk sports under the new plan. That allows practices with parental consent but not games. Intrasquad games are allowed.

"It only allows for non-contact practices and intra-team scrimmages, so that's what we're going to do," Bruggeman said. "We think the kids will still benefit from these leagues. So instead of league play, instead of an hour game, there will be 30 minutes of non-contact drill set up by the coaches then intra-team scrimmages. There are still positives in doing that, so that's the direction we'll go in."

The shortened summer season for the IHSA was not ideal, DeKalb track coach Tywon Green said, saying that losing the indoor season will be a big blow.

"It's going to be different," Green said. "I'm shocked actually. I didn't think they'd move the season like that. We put in so much work in every season for every sport. It's kind of a shell shock. And it limits the track season to basically one month. It's a little tough."

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