New restrictions put indoor winter sports on hold

By Peter Hancock Capitol News Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a COVID-19 briefing in the Chicago suburb of Hazel Crest Tuesday, Oct. 27. (

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced new guidelines for youth and adult winter sports on Tuesday, Oct. 27 that temporarily put a halt to competitive basketball, hockey and wrestling events.

Although participants in those sports may continue with non-contact training and drills, they will not be allowed to participate in competitive games or matches.

“As with sports in the fall, nothing is ‘cancelled,’ just put on hold until we’re through the thick of this pandemic,” Pritzker said in a news release. “We adapt as we learn. That has been our mantra throughout this pandemic, and as is true in every other facet of life, we know this virus is of most concern when people are indoors with high contact, especially in vigorous situations that bring about heavy breathing — like in wrestling, hockey and basketball.”

The new restrictions were announced in response to a continuing surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the state. They apply to school-sponsored competitions as well as travel clubs, private leagues and clubs, recreational leagues and centers, and park district sports programs. They do not apply to collegiate or professional sports.

Craig Anderson, Illinois High School Association executive director, on Tuesday responded to Pritzker’s comments.
“We remain considerate of the recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases in our state. However, in our meeting with IDPH on Friday (October 23), we felt that we presented multiple options that would allow for basketball to be conducted safely by IHSA schools this winter, many of which are being utilized in neighboring states who plan to play high school basketball.”

“Despite that setback,” he continued, “there is some positive news, as IDPH accepted the IHSA’s mitigations related to other sports, including cheerleading and dance, allowing them to move from a medium risk level to a low risk level. We will hold our special Board of Directors meeting on Oct. 28 as scheduled, where our Board will provide direction on the other winter sports, as well as discuss the IHSA sports schedule for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.”

Like the fall sports guidelines that the state first issued in May, the winter sports guidelines divide events into low, medium and high-risk categories.

They also provide for four different levels of activity, ranging from level 1, in which only no-contact practices and training are allowed, to level 4, in which tournaments are allowed, including out-of-conference and out-of-state play is allowed.

Basketball was originally classified as a medium-risk event in the fall guidelines, but the winter sports guidelines classify it as high risk due to close contact between players and the fact that it is played indoors. That means it is limited only to no-contact practices and training.

Other high-risk sports include football, lacrosse, martial arts, rugby and ultimate Frisbee.

Medium-risk sports — including fencing, flag football, paintball, soccer and volleyball —are allowed to take part in level 2 activities, such as intra-team scrimmages with parental consent for minors but no competitive play.

Lower-risk sports include competitive cheer and dance, as long as masking and social distance rules are enforced, as well as bowling, gymnastics, swimming, archery, track and field and weight lifting. Under the guidelines, people in those sports can take part in level 3 activities, which include games or meets within a conference or an Emergency Medical Services region or intra-league events. Level 3 also allows for state and league championship events for low-risk sports.

Under the current pandemic guidelines, no events are allowed to compete at level 4.

A full list of winter sports and their risk categories is available on the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity website.

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