The phrase “summer contact days” is a common one for Illinois’ high school athletes. For at least this school year, they’ll receive a slightly different experience.
There were summer contact days in 2020, albeit limited ones in accordance with safety guidelines tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning this upcoming Monday, fall contact days can commence around the state. They’re permitted to last through Oct. 31 in all IHSA sports not currently having a season, with each team provided a maximum of 20 days.
Among the athletes this applies to locally are those in baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball, boys’ swimming and diving, boys' tennis, track and field, volleyball and wrestling.
Restrictions surrounding what participants can engage in don’t deviate from current Illinois Department of Public Health rules, which were applying to all of these ventures during their summer contact days.
Athletes in low-risk sports — baseball, softball, boys’ swim and dive and boys’ tennis — can take part in intra-squad scrimmages. So too can competitors in medium-risk sports — basketball, soccer and volleyball — though they need parental consent.
Medium-risk sports students have to wear protective face coverings during their activity unless in the water (this only applies to water polo, which isn’t contested locally), exercising outdoors or socially distanced outdoors.
As for high-risk sports athletes — in football and wrestling — no intra-squad scrimmages are allowed. In fact, teams in those sports only can conduct non-contact practices and workouts at this time.
Open gym and open weight room sessions do not fall under these fall contact days and are allowed throughout the school year.
Football specifically is covered by additional guidance in this latest IHSA document.
Players can “participate in ball drills, handoff drills and passing drills” as well as “hit sleds, tackle padded dummies or rings and hold/hit shields” during the fall contact days. Athletes also can wear helmets and shoulder pads, though they “must wear helmets for two days before wearing shoulder pads on the third day.”