D190928 Decatur Lawrence County football

Decatur meets Lawrence County for the coin toss on Friday at Ogle Stadium. [DAN BUSEY/DECATUR DAILY]

It's happening. 

Fall sports for the 2020-21 school year will return this year and for now the plan is for them to return on schedule with little to no change. 

That was the announcement the AHSAA made Wednesday afternoon. 

The announcement came as many other surrounding states made their official decisions. 

The AHSAA held a press conference Thursday at 1 p.m.  During the conference they unveiled their "best practices document." The document, which can be found on the AHSAA website following the conference will serve as a guideline in which school's athletic teams can use to follow for their respective seasons this year, as well as a new set of rules that must be followed in the era of social distanced athletics. 

"The best practices document is there to help mitigate athlete's exposure to Covid-19 as they return to sports," said AHSAA Director Steve Savarese. "It will not eliminate the risk of Covid." 

The AHSAA hopes that the document will be a great help to schools and teams to allow them to make the necessary preparations to allow athletics to take place this year.

"It's simple," Savarese said. "We must all do our part and make the needed sacrifices to better protect others." 

Savarese made it clear that ultimately the decision for whether or not athletes will compete in athletics in this fall and so on will come down to the parents. 

"Parents must make the personal choice on whether or not their kids will be allowed to compete in athletics this year unless there comes a time where health officials decide to shut down schools and athletics." 

The document is not set in stone and can be changed, as the challenges that lie ahead have never been faced before.

"This is not a final document. It will be fluid," said the Assistant AHSAA Director Denise Ainsworth.  "None of us have the answer, but we've done a lot of research and this is our answer. We want to get our kids to be able to get back and enjoy the benefits of athletics and education." 

To view the AHSAA's best practices document and it's new guidelines, visit their website at AHSAA.com

Much of what will be allowed and not be allowed regarding sports this fall, such as number of fan restrictions at games, will be decided by the local school districts. 

Fall practice for football will be allowed to start on July 27.  Only workouts in helmets and shorts will be allowed in the first week. Other fall sports can use the first week starting on July 27 for acclimation and tryouts. Schools not choosing this option may begin practice on August 3. 

The first contest can begin on August 20.

"I pray every day that we will be able to finish our sports season so that our kids can benefit from the joys of athletics," said Savarese. "Hopefully we can get through fall sports and be able to move on successfully to Winter and Spring sports." 

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