Illinois Elementary School Association Board of Directors have canceled the regular seasons and state championship series for most fall sports due to the risks of coronavirus across the state.

The Directors, which oversee interscholastic competitions at the junior high and middle school level, announced its decision after its July 23 board meeting. The health safety precautions preventing physical contact and difficulties with social distancing against COVID-19 were key factors in the decision that will cancel golf, baseball, softball and cross country between IESA member schools. There are no plans to push back the seasons or reschedule later.

Timing of the decision was tied to the start of practices for the different sports. Many teams were scheduled to start practices this week or next in Illinois.

One more decision is pending on fall basketball for girls. IESA reported the first day of girls basketball practice is Aug. 31. The IESA Board will meet later in August to decide if that sport can proceed if the COVID-19 situation in Illinois has been reduced to allow that sport to move forward in the fall. No other decision was announced on other IESA competitions like speech.

IESA noted some youth and community baseball and softballs leagues have been playing this summer, but those activities are not adhering to most restrictions set by the Illinois Department of Public Health on COVID-19 safety.

This is a disappointment within Effingham County with local junior high baseball and softball teams regularly advancing in state competitions, as well as individual athletes in other fall sports. The Association noted its decision will be controversial in many circles, but a statement by the Board tried to put the cancellation in perspective.

"COVID-19 has changed the world. However, this decision is not the end of the world. It is not the news that most students and parents want. At the end of the day, we work with junior high and middle school students. They are not professional athletes; they are not college athletes; they are not high school athletes. They will not be missing out on any college scholarships. These are mainly 12 to 14 year-old kids who likely will have many more opportunities to participate (perhaps even later this school year in other activities). We recognize that athletics play a huge role in the lives of students. Activities, despite their importance in the development of students, can never take precedence over the health and safety of those same students as well as the health and safety of contest officials, game management, and parents or fans who attend contests."