Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s new restrictions on youth sports amid the coronavirus pandemic have many parents choosing to send their kids to Indiana so they can continue to play.
On Wednesday, Pritzker added new restrictions for recreational sports for both youths and adults beginning next month and within hours of the announcement, parents began reaching out across state lines.
“They were inquiring about the club and just asking if we had spots available and if our seasons were still on as planned,” said Van Gel of Millennium Soccer Association in Crown Point, Indiana. “If things shut down in Illinois then we’re able to take players out here."
Under the new guidance, each sport will be categorized into three "risk levels" - high, medium and low - determined by "the amount of contact between athletes and their proximity during play."
"This isn't news that anyone wants to hear, but this virus remains dangerous," Pritzker said during his press conference Wednesday.
In Illinois, soccer is among the sports the state categorizes as medium risk which limits practices to non-contact only and allows scrimmages, but not games.
However, in Indiana, games are allowed and teams practice social distancing when able and coaches and athletes wear masks while not actively competing on the pitch.
Meanwhile, football in Illinois is considered high-risk and only non-contact practices are allowed.
“I think the biggest concern was having an opportunity for their child to play football,” said Derek Vantichelt with Bulldogs Football in Crown Point. “We had three communities ask if they could bring their entire teams over to play with us.”
But despite communities showing interest in competing against the bulldogs, the team made the decision not to take the field this year due to the pandemic.
“It really wasn’t worth the risk for the younger kids and in our families,” Vantichelt said. “But there’s always next year.”
The restrictions on recreational sports in Illinois begins Aug. 15.