The IESA Board, following the IHSA’s lead, will now allow middle school sports to take place, eight days after having canceled fall sports.

Baseball, softball and cross country may begin practices starting Monday. Games can begin Aug. 15.

Two days ago, the IHSA released its plans for high school sports that pushes football, boys soccer and volleyball to the winter/spring and allows golf, girls tennis, cross country and swimming to compete this fall. On the same day, the governors office re-classified risk levels for various sports.

No state competitions appear to be scheduled at the middle school level, per the IESA statement. Softball and baseball will hold a regional-only series the week of Sept. 21, according to IESA. Sectionals for cross country will take place the week of Oct. 10-17 and sectionals for golf are set for Sept. 9.

“I am excited and anxious, but overwhelmed,” said Hannah Dow, middle school softball coach at Mattoon. “There have been a lot of decisions made in the last couple days that change a lot of aspects of the game we love to play. I will do anything I need to in order to be able to coach this group of girls as long as we are allowed to follow the safety guidelines and regulations that are provided to us by IESA and the health department.”

Mattoon Middle might need to find a new home field since the city shut down the Roundhouse Complex to sports events.

“No matter where we play, we should act like it’s our home field,” Dow said. “I completely understand if we are not able to play at the Roundhouse Complex. The pages and pages of guidelines and regulations that we will have to follow are strict and there are consequences for not following those. When our home field is not on school grounds, it becomes a different issue to deal with. I will do exactly what I am told to do by our school district and the park department for us to have a safe environment for our kids to be able to play in if possible.”

Charleston Middle School cross country coach John McInerney, meanwhile, suggested that a virtual state cross country meet could be an option, perhaps by having all runners compete on a track.

“We are cautiously thrilled,” McInerney said. “Just fearful it could all be taken away at any time. But we are excited to have another chance. Word is spreading fast. I’ve heard back from a bunch of excited kids and parents.”

Blain Mayhall called it a shame that the governor’s guidelines had not been relayed to IESA a few days before they were publicly announced Wednesday, but that he was still excited for the kids.

“There’s no state tournament, so that’s not that big goal to play for,” Mayhall said. “But the possibility of competing against some great teams in this area will only make us better.”

The IESA Board also approved a plan to modify remaining IESA sports for 2020-21. You can read the plan at https://www.iesa.org/temp/IESAAlternativePlan.pdf

“It is important to remember that the 2020-21 school year is not going to be the same as previous years,” the IESA stated on its website. “We are hopeful that the remainder of the sports and activities will be held. Currently, the majority of those activities have been deemed as medium or high risk. The Board felt that the plan they approved provides direction and a blueprint should we be able to move forward.”