It’s not the fall season that coaches had expected, but at least it’s something. 

The “Fall Contact Period” starts today for most schools in Illinois. Students and coaches who are not in season are allowed to be a part of them from Sept. 7-Oct. 31. 

Coaches are allowed a maximum of 20 contact days to give instructions in the skills and techniques of their sport. Open gyms and open weight rooms will be allowed to continue during this time, according to the IHSA document. 

“We are not going to have the full 20 days, but we are looking at using around 16,” Mattoon High football coach Troy Johnson said. “I’m happy to get 16 days, so we can see our kids.”

Students and coaches are required to wear face masks for contact days conducted indoors. Masks are also required outdoors, but not when those involved are socially distant or taking part in “strenuous activities.”

No matter the guidelines, all coaches are just happy to see their athletes again. 

“I’m excited to see the soccer kids again,” said Charleston High boys soccer coach Josh Garrett. “I’ve enjoyed some extra time at home so far this school year but really miss being around them.  For the boys, I’m ready to pick up where they left off. They did training on their own this summer because of the restrictions and they worked hard to be ready in case the season was a go.”  

Soccer and volleyball are considered medium risk. Intrasquad scrimmages are allowed, if parents grant consent. 

“As for training plans, we’ll focus a lot on skill work and try and show them things that they can and should be working on individually to prepare for the upcoming season,” Garrett said. “It’s hard to spend very much time on these things once a season is in full swing because of how many games are being played.  Practices become much more focused on the tactical aspect of the game.  We’ll try and keep it fun since it’s the off-season and we actually want people to come out during the official season. We’ll save most of the yelling for the spring and summer.” 

This year will be a challenge for both Garrett and Mattoon’s Ryan Ghere, who coach boys and girls soccer programs that will be running at the same time.

“For the girls, we missed out an opportunity to really have a fantastic season this past spring,” said Garrett.  “We lost several key seniors but have plenty of talent returning along with a lot of girls relatively new to the game. I know they’re hungry to show what they can do this next season.”

“I’m so excited to get to the gym,” said MHS volleyball coach Lori Morton. “We will start on September 14th. I have no idea how many to expect because at least five of our regulars chose to get involved with other sports that are able to compete now, which I think really great.”

Football, cited as a high-risk sport, will have more limited activity along with wrestling, lacrosse, cheer, and dance. These sports cannot have intrasquad scrimmages, allowed instead to hold no-contact practices and training sessions. 

“It will be very similar to the summer,” Johnson said. “We haven’t been able to do much since July, so we will see where we are at and what we have retained. We have been doing Google meetings a lot because we haven’t been able to be face to face as much.”

Johnson is not concerned, though. 

“I haven’t looked around to know what some other people are doing, but I’m not worried,” said Johnson. “I’m a worry about me kind of guy. I can’t control what others do. I have a good staff that already has the ball rolling on some ideas.”

In the meantime, coaches have remained optimistic. 

“I haven’t met many of the new freshmen but am figuring on around 25 boys this year,” said Garrett. “We had 46 girls last spring and we expect at least 35 to play this year.”