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J. Thomas McNamara

     An Illinois youth rally for education, activities and athletics is scheduled for Sunday morning at the McCook Athletic Facility at 4750 Vernon Street in McCook.
    Arrival begins at 9:20 a.m and continues until 10.  Parking lot attendants will assist students, parents and families.  A DJ will entertain from 10 to 10:15.
    For 30 minutes from 10:15 to 10:45 speakers from professional sports will talk about how prep sports prepared for them for life’s experiences.  Student-athletes from different sports also will speak.
    With this being Teen Suicide Awareness Month, those attending are being asked for bring a gently used youth or adult sweatshirt and $1 to donate to local teen homeless facility.  Donation will be made by area student-athletes across different sports on Tuesday to continue messaging.
    Those attending the rally are asked to wear their school shirt or jersey or community shirt.
    Masks are required.
In their announcement that a coach sent me, organizers expect more than a thousand at Sunday’s rally and they’re expecting considerable television coverage from the Chicago area stations.

    A similar rally is being scheduled for Springfield, but details are not available yet.

    Things are happening quickly on the IHSA sports front.
This comes on the heels of the Illinois High School Association issuing a statement Friday afternoon, clarifying a letter it sent the day before on Thursday to Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his deputy governor, Ruiz.
All this comes a week after Gov. Pritzker’s Michigan ally, Gov. Whitmer, acquiesced to protesters when she agreed to allow football.
    Sunday’s rally is to pressure Gov. Pritzker to relax his guidelines and allow preps to begin football practice next Saturday.
Social media went wild Thursday and Friday with news that IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson sent a letter Thursday to Gov. Pritzker and Deputy Governor Ruiz.
       That was followed by this statement from the IHSA today (Friday afternoon).  The IHSA is asking Pritzker and Ruiz to allow the IHSA to retake control of prep sports in Illinois.
On Sept.11, 2020, IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson issued the following statement to help clear the air regarding the content of a letter he issued to Governor Pritzker and Deputy Governor Ruiz:
      “With support from the IHSA Board of Directors, I issued a letter on September 10 to Governor Pritzker and Deputy Governor Ruiz, that seeks permission for the IHSA and its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to resume control over determining the resumption of IHSA sports and activities. 
    “However, the content of that letter has been greatly misconstrued on social media in a short amount of time.  There have been no discussions, let alone proposed timelines, for resuming any sports at this time.  Should our office receive a positive response from government officials, it could result in the IHSA reexamining its previously released season schedules, as well as postseason schedules, for the 2020-21 school year.
        “It is important to note that, under the leadership of Governor Pritzker, Illinois has attained one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country.  Additionally, several surrounding states have successfully conducted sports categorized as medium and high risk here in Illinois, and we believe sports and activities are safest when conducted under the IHSA safety protocols by school personnel.  Those combined factors led us to issue this letter, and we will respectfully await response to it.

The IHSA is not involved in any planned protests this weekend related to high school sports. If protests occur, we encourage all attendees to be safe, smart and respectful, concluded the statement.

Petition Drive
     Tifanie Schmale started a petition drive to restore football and as of 7:30 Saturday morning (Sept. 12, 2020) it had almost 25,000 signatures.
      Her petition reads,   We have over 300,000 high school athletes in the state of Illinois.  We love to compete and hear the cheers from the crowds.  But right now, the bleachers are silent, the gyms are empty, the gates are closed.  We athletes have suddenly lost the only way of life that we have ever known.  And for many of us, this is our last opportunity to play with our teammates, to compete for our school, or to earn a scholarship.

        “We understand that this is a serious situation.  But we can’t stop living.  There are still things we can do.         There are 800 high schools across the state of Illinois whose athletes are ready and want to play. We need to work together to find a way to make it happen.

       Many of our varsity athletes won’t get another chance.  So, we have a message for Governor Pritzker and Lieutenant Governor Stratton, and the Illinois High School Association, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Superintendents of the school districts, and the principals and athletic directors of our high schools, and for you.
     “We athletes and our coaches have worked hard on and off the field, and we miss the feeling of pride we have when we compete with other athletes.  We know that our health and safety must be a top priority, but we believe a plan can be put together with the right guidelines in place that would allow us to play and fulfill our dreams.
Please work to find a way to let us compete.  So much has already been lost.  We don’t get a second chance at this,  but if you start taking action now, we can make sure that no student athlete misses out on another season.  Athletes and our families matter.  Please remember us.  Fight for us.  Find a solution.  Do everything you can to make sure that we are allowed to play the game we love.
        I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

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