QUINCY — Bill Connell wasted no time reacting to the Illinois High School Association's amended Phase 4 return to play guidelines.
The Quincy Notre Dame athletic director received an email with the amended regulations — the most significant of which eliminated all physical contact between athletes and required everyone involved in a sports-related activity to wear a mask — at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
By 12:15 p.m., Connell had informed his coaching staff they were shutting down individual and team workouts and tryouts for activities such as pom-pom and cheerleading until further notice.
"There's no way I can require a pommer, cheerleader, football player, anybody to wear a mask and work out," Connell said. "This makes things more difficult than the first phase. At least then, we were allowed to social distance and not wear a mask.
"You're going to run when it's 110 degrees and you're wearing a mask? You're going to do a three-minute pom routine wearing a mask? Right now, it makes things impossible. So we've shut down all athletics and no practices or tryouts can happen right now."
Quincy High School athletic director Scott Douglas informed his coaches of the regulation changes, but the school is allowing its coaches to continue with workouts for now.
"We will do it because I think we can do it within the framework of the guidelines," QHS boys soccer coach Ron Bridal said. "I think we can have a one-hour technical training that will include some dribbling, passing and shooting that I believe me players will be able to handle in such a way that's not going to push them beyond their limitations given the temperature, masks, social distancing requirements, etc.
"My goal is for us to continue, but we will eliminate the competitive aspect of things."
That goes along with the IHSA's new directive.
The IHSA shared its changes with the state's athletic directors, but it has not publicly released a statement. According to the email sent to athletic directors, "while these changes to our guidance document have been shared with (the Illinois Department of Public Health), we do not have our document approved."
The IHSA announced the move to Phase 4, with IDPH approval, on July 3 allowing workouts with as many as 50 total participants (players, coaches, trainers, etc.), and the use of sport-specific equipment to begin four days. It also opened the door for competition, which led to several football programs setting dates for 7-on-7 competitions and other sports scheduling scrimmages.
Less than a week later, those guidelines were modified to include:
º There cannot be any contact drills/physical contact among athletes.
º All persons must always wear masks inside.
º There must be a strict 50-person limit to all indoor activities, and that would include any spectators.
More changes may loom. According to the IHSA email, adjustments to guidelines could come periodically in the coming weeks as the testing numbers fluctuate.
To prove that point, the IHSA emailed athletic directors late Thursday afternoon with updated approvals from the Illinois State Board of Education and the governor's office. Masks must be worn indoors, but do not have to be worn outside as long as athletes are social distancing. Scrimmages have been eliminated in sports requiring physical contact.
While the Quincy schools fully entered Phase 4 this week, many of the rural schools did not.
According to Zak Huston, the Illini West athletic director and baseball coach, the Chargers are continuing to do small-group strength and conditioning workouts with no immediate plans to go to larger scale practices or sport-specific workouts.
"The only adjustment will be the use of the masks," Huston said. "The way we were doing things is student-athletes need to wear face coverings when they can't social distance. Now, it's everybody wears face coverings. So what's the difference? They have to wear face coverings, no questions asked."
It doesn't change the strict adherence to safety protocols.
"Our two strength coaches (Michael and Dakota Lafferty) have been doing a great job of doing temperature checks and screening the athletes," Huston said. "They're keeping them as active as possible and making sure they're cleaning the weight room and cleaning the equipment when they're done with it."
Sticking to those guidelines, no matter how often they change, is a priority.
The hope is that allows for continued workouts under the guidelines.
"We do things a little bit different to begin with," Central football coach Brad Dixon said. "We require our kids to compete for short amounts of time. They get a lot of rest and then compete again. We allow our guys to walk between drills so they're ready for the next drill.
"We're not out there just doing consistent work for an hour and a half. We're usually done in an hour and 15 minutes. There's a lot of time we rest in between. So I think there's a way we can come up with a plan where we're working out early in the morning. If we can take the masks off at certain points where we are socially distant, I think we can do something."
If that can't be achieved, these guidelines might shut more schools down.
"If we have to wear it all the time, even outside no matter what we do, that's going to make it hard to do any type of workout," Dixon said.