FILE - IHSA Illinois high school basketball

Marshall's Patrick Beverley, left, tries to steal the ball from Edwardsville's E.J. Jones during the second quarter of the quarterfinals of the 2006 IHSA boy's Class AA state basketball tournament in Peoria, Illinois.

(The Center Square) – After a spring with limited fans and mask-wearing players, Illinois high school sports will be returning closer to normalcy.

The Illinois High School Association has announced changes to rules regarding sports and activities after the state entered Phase 5 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's reopening plan Friday.

Masks are not required for players, coaches and officials in low to medium-risk outdoor sports, and teams can schedule to play another team in the state as well as out-of-state opponents.

IHSA Assistant Executive Director Matt Troha said changes are being made to

“In terms of spectator limitations, those are no longer in place, so we can have 100% capacity at all of our upcoming events,” Troha said.

To assist with social distancing, the IHSA is using digital ticketing at all remaining super-sectional and state final venues for the rest of the 2021 school year. Fans can purchase tickets via the GoFan app or at GoFan.co/IHSA.

The pandemic canceled several sports, moved the football season to the spring, and limited capacities at all contests.

The IHSA plan to deal with the virus proved to be a successful one, based on a survey that drew nearly 1,500 responses from its membership after the winter sports season. The survey examined data gathered from 10 different sports.

The survey reported only 3% of athletes' positive COVID-19 cases were traced to a sports competition or practice. The rest were from and outside contact.

Troha said it was an interesting year for high school sports.

“It was different and we knew that was going to be the case going in, but I think for the most part our schools, our coaches, our student-athletes were just happy to get the opportunity to play and take advantage of the opportunity they were given,” Troha said.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.