IHSA reviews opportunities for student-athletes with disabilities

By on April 19, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.—At their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors were briefed on Monday’s first meeting of the association’s Ad-Hoc Committee studying participation opportunities for student-athletes with disabilities.

For decades, the IHSA has embraced the inclusion of student-athletes with disabilities in a wide array of competitive sports and events. It now looks to further enhancements by providing more opportunities.

“We want to ensure Illinois is a leader in providing opportunities for student-athletes with disabilities,” said Dan Klett, a principal from Wauconda High School, member of the IHSA Board of Directors and chairman of the new IHSA committee. “Our goal is to facilitate a thoughtful and inclusive discussion about participation opportunities while providing a meaningful experience for our student-athlete competitors.”

The newly formed IHSA committee is reviewing current opportunities available in Illinois for student-athletes with disabilities, evaluating the need to expand those opportunities, and will prepare recommendations to the IHSA Board to explore opportunities to incorporate student-athletes with disabilities at the state championship level. The committee will also survey member schools, stakeholders and other agencies to gather additional insight and information regarding potential participation levels.

The committee’s recommendations would build on measures the IHSA has already taken over the years to accommodate athletes with prosthetic limbs, athletes in wheelchairs, visually impaired and hearing impaired athletes, and athletes with paralysis to compete in sports like basketball, gymnastics, golf, bowling, swimming, track and field, and cross country.

One such athlete, Matthew Juskie, a student at Lincoln-Way North High School in Frankfort, Ill., is a non-sighted golfer who has been permitted a spotter to accompany him at IHSA golf competitions.

“Playing golf on my team with my teammates is a huge part of my high school experience that I will never forget,” said Juskie. “I am thankful to my coach, my school and teammates for giving me the opportunity to compete.”

The committee members represent each of the IHSA’s seven board divisions. They are Marty Bee, athletic director at Naperville (Central) High School; Mike Curtin, associate athletic director at Oak Park (Fenwick) High School; Judy Fitzgerald, principal at Moweaqua (Central A&M) High School; Kathy J. Hasson, principal at Taylor Ridge (Rockridge) High School; Bill Hook, principal at Chicago (Agricultural Science) High School; Bill Lamkey, principal at Riverton High School; and Steve Smith, principal from Marion (H.S.).

“Right now there are more than 300,000 student-athletes from our nearly 800 member schools who participate in IHSA sports and activities,” said Klett. “We’re listening to a diverse group of voices and are exploring a wide range of implementation considerations including policy, procedure and even having a census of student-athletes with disabilities.”

The committee is expected to report back to the IHSA Board of Directors by its June 11 meeting.

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