On Wednesday, the Illinois High School Association announced it was moving football to the spring season. The starting date for football and the other newly defined spring sports is set for Feb. 15, with the first possible game likely being slated for Friday, March 5.
While the move to the spring creates a lot of unknowns, Effingham head coach Brett Hefner is happy the IHSA didn’t cancel the season altogether.
“I’m just happy too know we’re going to have a season,” Hefner said. “I think that’s the big thing. I’m anxious to talk to our kids tomorrow and try and help them out and help them understand it by sitting back and taking a look at the parameters and come up with a gameplan. It’s going to be different with just the timing of the year. But it beats the heck out of not having a season.”
This creates a reverse scenario compared to what coaches and athletes are used to; traditionally having certain athletes transition from football to basketball season, sometimes in a matter of days, to having to acclimate themselves from basketball season to football season.
“Typically in football, you have to have a certain number of days of practice,” said Hefner. “Let’s say basketball is going to the beginning of football practice, if there is a postseason and your team goes a few weeks into that, do those kids still have to turn around and get that acclimatization of so many days in pads.
“That’s an additional two to three weeks whereas when they go from football to basketball, they don’t have to practice basketball two weeks before they’re allowed to play. I think when you get into smaller schools when you get deep into the playoffs, Coach [Obie] Farmer dealt with that when we went deep into the postseason, it affected the beginning of their season. But they don’t have to have a certain amount of practice compared to the football bylaws where you need a certain amount of days in the equipment. Those kids could miss half the season.”
However, just like every other season’s slate of sports, a State Series format has yet to be determined, leaving players and coaches not knowing exactly what they’re playing for as well as not knowing who exactly they’ll be playing.
“Our two goals that never change are that we always want to win a conference championship and you always want to get yourself in position to make a run in the postseason,” Hefner said. “Even if they go mostly conference games, some teams play nine conference games. This might be the year they for one year go with a district-type model.”
Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg head coach Ronda Schlechte is relieved the IHSA moved the season as well, making a long day of waiting worth it.
“Waiting for the IHSA to get that out was a long, drawn out wait.” Schlechte said. “But I’m very glad everybody gets to play.
“I still think we’re waiting day-to-day to make sure it’s actually going to happen, so I still feel like I’m on edge because you don’t know at this point still. We’re just going to take it one day at a time.”
With the Hatchets having recent postseason success in both volleyball and softball over the past few years, the decision to create another sports season for the summer made it so players wouldn’t have to choose between volleyball or softball for the spring.
“I do feel bad for the summer sports because their season is so short,” Schlechte said. “But I’m excited everyone will get to play. I doubt our school would’ve let something like that happen. You want to give kids the opportunity to play as many different sports as they can, but I’m glad we don’t have to worry about that.”
However, with volleyball being moved to the spring it creates a conflict with travel and club volleyball teams.
“In the summer we have our summer contact days and then roll right into the season,” Schlechte said. “I coach Rapid Fire, and they’re talking about possibly moving club schedules around and maybe do something more in the fall, because that does kind of interfere just a little bit.
“It’s going to be a little backwards with having club first and then high school. I’m not sure how will recruiting will work now. Obviously they probably won’t have as many club tournaments to go to. But I’m excited for this year. Everybody is in the same boat.”