We know many other programs have cancelled for this fall but we are committed to being resilient and finding a safe alternative for our athletes. We will be converting our program for this season to be a non-contact 7-on-7 format instead of padded tackle. This means athletes will not be tackling, wearing helmets, or pads. We will continue to offer the cheerleading programs for ages 4 through 14 (8th Grade). We believe this will allow your athletes to maintain the opportunity to participate in sports and physical activity as part of a team while reducing risk of transmissions (though risk can never be eliminated). In developing plans to have a tackle season, we simply feel that the regulatory requirements associated with the high contact nature of tackle, higher likelihood that specific sport will be shutdown in the beginning or middle of a season, and the administration of sanitizing equipment and facilities would take away from our ability to focus on providing instruction to our athletes. We have developed what we think will continue to be an incredible experience for our athletes in football and cheerleading.
DIVISIONS AND TEAMS
We will divide our athletes into divisions based on their grade as follows. Division names draw on our own naming history as the “Knockers” are based on a shrine in Knock, Ireland which represents the resilient and enduring spirit of our program:
Shamrocks: K – 2nd Grade
Celts: 3rd – 4th Grade
Banshees: 5th – 6th Grade
Oi’r (Irish for “Gold”): 7th – 8th Grade
Maeves (Irish Warrior Queen) Cheerleading: 4 years-old – 14 years-old (or 8th Grade)
Based on our coaches and parent discretion, athletes may be moved to a higher division, but must stay in that division all season and cannot move between divisions. Athletes will be placed in teams of between 10 and 15 players within their division for scrimmage or game days. We will evaluate the option to play other programs from the area as we are gathering interest. As of right now, we have enough sign ups for at least three teams in each of the divisions and more in others. Cheerleading will place their athletes in teams associated with each of the divisions above, but will have more flexibility on ages at coaches and parental discretion.
SCHEDULE AND PRACTICE FORMAT
The season will run from August 12th through October 7th. Each division will practice 2 times per week and we will stagger days to minimize congestion at the park.
Shamrocks, Celts (aka K – 4th) – Monday / Wednesday
Banshees, Oi’r, Maeves (aka 5th – 8th plus all cheer) – Tuesday / Thursday
Beginning on 8/26, the Wednesday and Thursday practices will be converted to games/scrimmages. Cheerleading will also have their younger levels cheer at the Wednesday games and older levels on the Thursday games, but will not have any athlete cheering on both days. Again, we will evaluate the potential to play other teams as we hear back from other organizations who may be interested, but have enough for now to have competitions among our own teams. We have attached the full season schedule.
Our practices will include more general agility and mobility training as well as a focus on the passing skills. This includes basic passing and catching form for younger athletes and will progress to advanced route running and offensive strategy and defensive coverage schemes for older athletes.
UNIFORMS AND EQUIPMENT
All athletes will be provided a Knocker / YMCA performance T-shirt which is their to keep and will be worn for games scrimmages. Athletes will also be provided performance shorts which are theirs to keep and also to be worn for games and scrimmages. Cheerleaders will be provided game day uniforms which are theirs to keep for the season and then MUST be returned. Cheerleaders will all be provided a performance shirt which will be theirs to keep. We will be providing all athletes a free, Knocker branded face covering, while supplies last.
All athletes will receive a end-of-season certificate recording their participation and accomplishment. This includes plaques for our 8th graders as in years past. We will not be holding a banquet this season.
HEALTH PROTOCOLS AND PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
We are implementing a number of new protocols to help reduce risk of transmission. Though risk can never be eliminated, we will be doing the following:
All athletes must bring their own personal water bottle with name marked. No communal water will be provided
Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the park
Bleachers will be closed and spectators will be encouraged to bring their own seating
Contactless temperature screen of each athlete prior to each event. Athletes with a fever of 100.3 or higher will not be allowed to participate and must wait for a 72-hour period of being symptom free before returning
Locker room will be closed for the entire season, with limited exceptions for coaches
Coaches will be required to wear masks or face shields when providing instruction at practice or on the sidelines at games/scrimmages
Athletes (except cheer) will be required to wear gloves
Spectators encouraged to wear masks
Any athlete with a positive COVID test may not return until they are cleared under the guidelines to return to school by Unit 5, District 87 or the requirements of their school or educational district
Athletes or coaches who had been in “close contact”, defined as within 6 feet for 15 minutes, of an individual with a positive COVID test will follow contact tracing notification and return protocols through the McLean County Health Department
Each coaching bag will contain hand sanitizer, disinfecting spray, contactless thermometer, and disinfecting wipes
We encourage athletes to attend when they can, stay home if they have any symptoms, and engage other activities such as their educational and other commitments. We will not enforce any attendance requirements, and to the contrary, want to ensure that your athletes have access to sports as much or as little as appropriate for each individual and family. We will be focused on having all athletes maximizing their playing time and learning.
We will have a formal guest speaker program this season. During the last 15 minutes of practice, athletes will gather in a socially-distant manner and hear from a lineup of great role models and speaker on a number of topics. These will include local business owners, former Knockers, college and professional athletes, healthcare professionals, coaches, public servants, law enforcement, social advocates, teachers, and others. Their talks will reinforce our core values and allow our athletes to gain access to the perspective and guidance of some wonderful role models.
Free. Yes, you read that right, we will not be charging for this season and only accepting donations as our families are willing and able. Considering the great deal of activities our kids have lost, the financial hardships many families are facing and reinforcing that we are a non-profit organization with a mission that prioritized our youth, we are willing to offer this season for free for any athlete up to our capacity. We would still welcome and encourage donations of $50 for 4-7 year old cheer, $100 for 8 – 14 cheer, and $125 for 7-on-7.
If you already paid and would like a refund, please email us and we will initiate those over the next few weeks. Please let us know if you still plan to participate but would simply like to take advantage payment being optional for 2020, or if you plan to withdraw for any reason. We will refund 100%
If you paid and plan to participate an would like to keep your payment as the optional donation, no action is needed and we thank you for your generosity. We will issue anyone who pays a donation letter which may be used for your taxes next year.
If you have not signed up, you may do so on our site and will have an option to make a donation or play for free, whichever is best for your unique situation.
Our generous donors and financial due diligence over these past few years has allowed us to offer this for free and we are grateful to those donors and our board for their leadership and generosity of time and treasure.
Thank you for your patience this season as we navigate current times. Thank you to our board, coaches, volunteers, and parents who have been on many, many hours of calls with me over the past month. Whether or not you are able to participate this season, Once a Knocker, Always a Knocker. We know this change is different and may be seen as unfortunate for some, but we hope our families will appreciate the great amount of thought and care as well as the resiliency as we forge forward with what will be a fun and safe season.
Stay Ready, So You Don’t Have to Get Ready.