Illinois coaches and athletes got the guidelines they needed late last week, allowing them to take steps towards returning to high school sports.

As of June 6, members schools of the Illinois High School Athletic Association were allowed to open their facilities for strength and conditioning sessions. That’s a first since activities were suspended in mid-March. Individual school districts are to decide what activities are allowed, and outdoor workouts are encouraged when possible.

These guidelines are only there for districts that are within a region that has migrated to Phase 3 of Gov. JB Pritzker’s reopening plan.

The IHSA formed the guidelines with their Sports MEdicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) and waited for approval from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDHP)

“Our kids have been without sports and school for over two months, which has taken a toll on their physical and emotional health, said IHSA SMAC member Dr. Cynthia R. LaBella said. “We purposely designed this first phase to focus solely on strength and conditioning so that kids can gradually rebuild their fitness levels in small peer groups with coach guidance. This will get kids moving again with their peers in the safest way possible, which will have a huge positive impact on their physical and emotional well-being.”

Students are limited to three hours of physical participation each day.

Illinois laid out certain restrictions as students return to the fields and courts. Social distancing should be maintained where possible, and mask used is encouraged when social distance cannot be maintained.

Gatherings are also must be help to the guidelines of 10 or less people, and that includes the coach and medical personnel in attendance.

Groups have to be predetermined, and once set athletes cannot switch from one group to another based upon sports.

Sport specific drills are not allowed yet, but instead the sessions must be focused on weights, running and other conditioning exercises.

Locker rooms are not allowed.

”I commend the IHSA SMAC for crafting a plan that fits within the framework provided by state leadership, and refuses to compromise safety,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “The IHSA Return to Play Guidelines offer some important first steps in allowing student-athletes to reacclimate both physically and mentally to athletics, but more importantly, they allow each school to assess their own individual situation and determine if and when they want to proceed.”

More guidelines will be released down the line as the IHSA and IDHP develop more Return to Play steps.