Illinois High School Association Unveils Four-Season Schedule for 2020-21

Swimming: Illinois High School Swimming Championships Friday Evanston, Illinois 22-FEB-2008 X79648 TK1 CREDIT: Andrew Hancock Swimming: Illinois High School Swimming Championships Friday Evanston, Illinois 22-FEB-2008 X79648 TK1 CREDIT: Andrew Hancock

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Wednesday released a plan to accommodate schedule challenges caused by COVID-19 that will break the school year into four segments. Usually, the state has three sport seasons (fall, winter and spring) but will add a summer season in May and June.

The 2020-21 season will be divided into four condensed seasons. The fall runs from Aug. 10-Oct. 24. The winter will stretch from Nov. 16 to Feb. 13, 2021. Spring lasts from Feb. 15 to May 1. And the summer season runs May 3 to June 26, all subject to the whims of coronavirus spread in the state. Plans for state tournaments are to be determined.

Fall sports that are at the highest risk – football, girls volleyball and boys soccer – are moving to the spring. Girls swimming and diving, normally a fall sport, will remain there and start on Aug. 10 with boys and girls golf, girls tennis and boys and girls cross country. Boys swimming and diving remains a winter sport.

The IHSA’s announcement was facilitated by Governor J.B. Pritzker announcing guidance earlier Wednesday (pdf) pertaining to “all youth and adult recreational sports, including, but not limited to, school-based sports (IHSA & IESA), travel clubs, private leagues and clubs, recreational leagues and centers, and park district sports programs.” The restrictions will begin Aug. 15, which would seem to conflict with the IHSA dates.

This tiered classification from the state sorts sports into three risk categories (higher, medium and lower) and defines four levels of competition, from no-contact practice and training (level 1) to “tournaments, out-of-conference/league play, multi-team meets, out-of-state play allowed; championship games allowed” (level 4). Higher-risk sports remain only capable of level 1 competition, while lower-risk sports are eligible for level 3, which includes intra-conference/intra-league play only. Level 4 competition is out of reach for all sports at this point.

Swimming and diving is classified as a lower-risk sport with conditions: “if restricted to single lane and single diving; no relays, synchronized swimming or paired diving.” According to the restrictions, relays would elevate swimming competition to medium-risk, and allow only intra-team scrimmages with parental consent for minors and no competition.

Illinois has been one of the slower states to reopen to swimming. It’s also been the site of lawsuits aimed at the IHSA to restart athletic competition.


  1. Kimberly Wright Reher

    IL teachers unions are fighting for 100% remote instruction, decisions are changing weekly. Have no idea what this would mean for athletics. 😕 Sad.

  2. Diane Pavelin

    Washington state has gone to a 4 season plan, but girls’ swimming has been moved to the spring (March-May), and all the seasons are 3 weeks shorter than for a normal 3 season school year.

  3. Jennifer Rinesmith

    Missouri’s (MSHSAA) only decision is to say that if your district goes virtual, then no sports. So we have some schools here in STL that can have teams and others that can’t do anything. It’s a mess here. They did not change up any seasons for the athletes. You’re just out of luck. It’s great that other states are actively searching for ways for the athletes to have seasons.

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