Wednesday’s IHSAA announcement clearing the way for fall high school sports to be played is a critical first step to getting student-athletes on the field.

But it’s hardly an iron-clad guarantee, as we found out later Wednesday afternoon when the Marion County Health Department put a stop to such activities until at least Oct. 1. That means no schools calling Indianapolis home will compete much before Oct. 10 unless the IHSAA waives the requirement for a minimum number of practices before a first competition.

A quick review of the fall sports master schedule, just completed last week, shows there are no fall-sports competitions scheduled in Marion County, other than state championships. The closest one I saw was Warsaw playing in a girls golf tournament in Fishers, which is in Hamilton County.For our local student-athletes, all this means is the beginning of practice.

Whether or not there’s going to be a full season for boys and girls soccer, football and volleyball remains to be seen. To be honest, it remains to be seen if tickets will be sold to any game/match, or if scribes such as myself will be admitted to watch the games. I can see it’s practically impossible to have physical distancing in a press box.

And if Marion County extends its ban on high school games, where will championships be contested??Lucas Oil Stadium would be off limits, among other places. Here’s hoping we have to concern ourselves with such things.

Our neighbors to the west have a much different dilemma; the Illinois High School Association, the governing body there, moved to a four-season calendar, with fall sports from Aug. 10 to Oct. 24. Winter is Nov. 16 to Feb. 13, spring will be Feb. 15 to May 1 and the new summer season will run from May 3 to June 26.

Fall sports in Illinois this year include boys and girls golf, girls tennis, boys and girls cross country and girls swimming and diving. Winter sports are basketball, wrestling, boys swimming, cheerleading, dance, bowling and girls gymnastics.

Football, boys soccer, girls volleyball, badminton, gymnastics and water polo will be in the spring. Baseball, softball, track and field, girls soccer, boys volleyball, lacrosse and boys tennis will run in the summer, all according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The plus to side to such a system is, hopefully, very few student-athletes will have to choose which sports they play. Here in northern Indiana, we have a bunch of two- and three-sport athletes, and no one wants to have to make them choose based on the pandemic.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association is taking a wait-and-see approach before deciding what to do regarding fall sports. Can’t blame them for kicking that can down the road as far as possible.

There are so many moving part to the pandemic, and schools are caught in the crossfire more than most. Regardless of what move is made, someone’s going to feel like they’re getting messed over. Danged if they do, danged if they don’t.

The statement released Wednesday by the IHSAA said the organization “will continue to serve our member schools in providing clarifications and further guidance for the safe return of athletic activities in our state.” That means they’ll offer strong suggestions, but the final decisions will have to me made locally.

I’ve clung tenaciously all summer to the belief that if it’s at all possible to have high school sports safely, it would happen. I’ve a feeling we’ll continue to hang on to that hope one a week-to-week basis for quite a while.

I started to write “the forseeable future,” but who can honestly say they saw the pandemic coming? If you told me in March we’d still be dealing with this heading into August, I know I wouldn’t have wanted to believe it.

But, alas, here we are.