By Chris Tye

CHICAGO (CBS) — High school sports are coming back in Illinois, and some are starting as soon as possible. All 24 sports will get some play this year, and spring sports will get a full season.

However, most of the Chicago area cannot compete against other teams. Regions are required to first reach Phase 4 mitigation.

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The Illinois High School Association Board of Directors announced Wednesday that seven sports — basketball, boys’ swimming and diving, dance, cheerleading, bowling, gymnastics and badminton — will resume practices as soon as possible. Most will not have a postseason, though dance and cheerleading will conduct their state series virtually.

Boys’ soccer will begin practices March 1, and football will begin March 3. Neither will have a postseason.

Besides football, all sports will be required to practice seven days before holding a contest, IHSA said in a release. Football will be required to practice on 12 different days before a game. Football competition will last just five weeks, ending April 24.

Girls’ volleyball, boys’ gymnastics and water polo also begin mid-March.

Whether most spring sports will get a post season has yet to be determined.

Wrestling moves to summer season starting in April.

IHSA spring sports lost their entire season last year due to COVID-19 mitigations.

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“The Board wants to do everything in their power to prevent spring sports from going two consecutive years with no postseason IHSA play,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “There are obviously no guarantees, as risk levels by sport and local region mitigation statuses will factor significantly. Postseason could mean being limited to a Regional or Sectional level of competition, but we have not ruled out the idea of playing a full state tournament in these traditional spring sports if possible.

Masks will still be required. Exceptions include swimming and diving, gymnastics on an apparatus, and outdoor sports where social distancing can occur. All game personnel not participating in the sports will be required to wear masks.

Athletes say this was more than they expected.

“I really did not think this was going to happen. Maybe I had more hope back in November, but I think it was just great, relieving news today. That we know now its’s going to happen, because I was not positive at all. I am not going to lie,” said Hannah Schneiderman, a senior basketball player at New Trier High School.

“We need it for our scholarship opportunities. Many of us are left unrecruited. We have little film and this is our opportunity to put ourselves out there so that we can get our scholarships and being able to make it out of our communities,” said Jonathan Rodriguez, a senior soccer player at Thornton Township High School.

While getting to play is a big relief for many athletes, some are disappointed they can’t go to state.

“Being a senior, I don’t get a next year. You know, the freshmen and the sophomores and the juniors, they get a next year. I don’t get a next year. I’m kind of leaving my gymnastics career on a cliffhanger,” said Barrington High School Senior Brooke Husby. “You know, it is devastating not to have a state series, but at least I’m competing and getting out there and showing off what I have been training this past summer, this past fall, and the winter.”

All of this just means schools can activate. Some will not, either because facilities are being used for COVID vaccination sites, or teachers may have a looming strike such as in Chicago.

See the full schedule here:

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