Matthew Lyke, athletic director at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, intends on giving H-F student athletes “memorable experiences” despite shortened schedules and COVID-19 precautions.
“The kids may not have the same amount of contests, and tournaments and invitationals like they used to, but we are still providing competitive, memorable moments for these kids throughout their season,” he said.
“We would not be able to provide what we are currently providing for our kids without the support of our administration, our parents and guardians and our coaching staff. This is a collective effort to provide these opportunities for our kids,” Lyke said. “Our goal at Homewood-Flossmoor is to provide kids with an outlet during remote learning. I feel that if your focus is how do we get this situation as close to traditional, I don’t think it’s the correct mindset. Our mindset has been to create opportunities for our kids in a safe environment and get them the memorable experiences but at the same time provide them with an outlet that they are learning for an educational perspective.”
Under Illinois High School Association (IHSA) rules, contact is limited, play is shortened and team schedules are now in four seasons. Fall sports included boys and girls tennis, golf and cross-country, and girls swimming and diving.
With COVID-19 numbers spiking, hockey and wrestling, originally designated for play in winter, are on hold.The winter season, opening Nov. 16, focuses boys swimming and diving, competitive cheerleading, competitive dance and girls gymnastics.
IHSA told schools basketball could be played, despite Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s restrictions and safety recommendations from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Lyke said, “At this time, we are waiting on further guidance from the IHSA, Illinois Department of Public Health, the Governor's Office and our school district law firm for the sport of basketball.”
Football, boys soccer and girls volleyball moved from fall to the spring season starting Feb. 15. Other spring sports are girls badminton, boys gymnastics and boys and girls water polo. A newly created summer season starting May 3, is for traditional spring sports, including baseball, softball, boys and girls track and field, girls soccer, boys volleyball, boys and girls lacrosse and boys tennis.
IHSA classified sports as low, medium and higher risks. Wrestling, football, basketball and lacrosse are in the higher risk category.
Currently, conference and sectional meets are scheduled, but not state championships. Across Illinois parents and students have held rallies and are petitioning IHSA to make changes to the schedule and lift some restrictions on play. Lyke said he doesn’t know of any H-F parents or students asking for changes.
All athletes fill out a health certification presented to their coach, have a temperature check at the start of practice, and wear masks as possible.
IHSA allowed for five-hour practices five days a week this summer, but H-F set a limit of 90-minutes three days a week. Lyke said that meant H-F had "a better chance of keeping kids safe because they’re not with each other to the maximum of five days a week.” Lyke added that the more students are together, it is harder to manage social distancing, mask wearing and safety protocols.
IHSA allowed for 20 contact days for preseason outdoor training, but H-F is using only 14 to 16 days. Players meet two days a week.
“In general our indoor sports (training) have 50 people or less in a facility at any given time and the student athlete whether working out, distancing doesn’t matter -- they have to be in masks the entire time indoors. There is no removal of the mask.”
Lyke said overall “the kids are just appreciative they have this opportunity. They’re making the most of this opportunity. And it has been positive for us.”