Play Smart. Play Hard.

Welcome to the Play Smart. Play Hard. website – your resource for information on enhancing the safety of our student-athletes in Illinois high schools and across the entire United States.

At the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), player safety is our top priority. Play Smart. Play Hard. builds on IHSA’s existing commitment to safeguard the health and welfare of student-athletes by focusing on educating and equipping student-athletes, parents, coaches and schools on how we can all work together to better protect our athletes while they enjoy playing the sports we all love.

Click on the various tabs to learn more about the IHSA’s player safety programs; the Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety; various player safety resources for student-athletes, parents, coaches and our partners; and how you can support and get involved in Play Smart. Play Hard.

If you have questions or comments about Play Smart. Play Hard., please contact


The Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety was created to facilitate open and transparent dialogue around head injuries and other player safety issues, review IHSA’s current programs and offer new recommendations to ensure the IHSA remains a leader in student-athlete safety standards and protocols. The Council is comprised of a group of individuals dedicated to enhancing student-athlete safety and who reflect a diversity of perspectives, including current and former student-athletes, parents, coaches, elected officials and experts from the medical community.

Following a standout high school career at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Tregg earned a football scholarship to the University of Notre Dame as a defensive back. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, he has since transitioned to a successful banking career. Tregg remains connected to the game as a passionate advocate for player health and safety. As the son of deceased NFL veteran Dave Duerson, who suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), Tregg has worked ardently on player safety initiatives with the Illinois legislature and has spoken publicly as an advocate for suicide prevention and about mental health issues associated with injuries. His efforts with the Dave Duerson Foundation resulted in 200 King Devick sideline concussion tests being donated to 80 public schools.

A Thornton High School graduate who went on to have a standout college football career at Northwestern University, Napoleon played in the NFL for eight seasons with the Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs. In 2013, he was elected to the Illinois State Senate as the representative for the 15th district. An advocate for player safety, Napoleon has worked on several safety initiatives since taking office, including collaborating with the IHSA on a catastrophic injury insurance law that was passed in 2013 to ensure student-athletes have insurance coverage if they sustain injuries that lead to paralysis.

As Associate Athletic Director at Northwestern University, Tory oversees the Athletic Training Services for the school’s 19 NCAA Division I athletic programs. A member of the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame, Tory was honored as the Head Athletic Trainer of the Year for Division I and the Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association in 2012. A passionate supporter of enhancing player safety, Tory has written and spoken extensively on concussion prevention and recognition, and is a member of the NFHS Concussion Summit Task Force.

Dustin serves as an ATC at Athleticare via HSHS St. Mary's of Decatur. He has more than 20 years of experience working with student-athletes who have suffered injuries, including include concussions. As a father and former athlete, Dustin’s desire to “see his three kids grow up and play full-contact/collision sports, if they choose, in a safer environment led him to launch The Concussion Blog, which aims to help educate parents and student-athletes on how to minimize the dangers of head injuries in sports.

With more than 25 years of experience, Sara started out as a member of the Crystal Lake Central Pom Squad and today is a nationally recognized cheerleading coach. She is also co-founder and president of the Illinois Spirit Officials Association, serves as an IHSA official in Competitive Dance and Football, and was named the Cheer Official of the Year in 2011. On the academic front, Sara teaches math and is the Student Activities Coordinator at Wauconda High School. As a parent of two boys who are active in youth sports, Sara is passionate about student-athlete health and safety.

Dennis is a Batavia Bulldog through and through, having returned to teach and coach at his alma mater in 1989. He ascended to the head coaching role for the football program in 2011, and led Batavia to its first football state title in 2013. As a coach and father, Dennis cares immensely about the safety of his players, as he even coached his own son throughout his high school football career. Dennis is a board member for the Batavia Youth Football Program, where he remains committed to teaching young athletes and coaches to play the game safely and correctly.

Bailey is a sophomore at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, where she participates in volleyball, basketball, and softball. As a freshmen in 2015, Bailey helped her school win a 2A state title in volleyball, reach the Elite Eight in basketball, and capture the school’s first-ever Class 2A Regional softball title. Bailey plays basketball for her mother, Deb, a state champion coach with over 400 career wins.

One of two current student-athletes on the advisory council, Cole is a senior at Salem High School, where he participates in three sports (baseball, basketball, football). He has grown up around sports, as his father Scott coached football at the high school level for over 20 years and currently serves as Salem High School's Athletic Director.


Minutes from March 30, 2017 Meeting

Minutes from October 25, 2016 Meeting

Minutes from March 31, 2016 Meeting

Minutes from October 27, 2015 Meeting

Minutes from June 9, 2015 Meeting

Q: What is “Play Smart. Play Hard.” all about?
The IHSA was founded upon the belief that high school athletics bring tremendous value to student-athletes, including lifelong lessons in hard work, perseverance and teamwork. At the same time, we recognize there is an element of risk in athletics. We take player safety seriously and are committed to ensuring that all those involved in high school athletics – students, parents, coaches, schools – are educated on and equipped to address player safety concerns. Our goal is to ensure current and future high school athletes have opportunities to both Play Smart and Play Hard.

Q: What is the IHSA doing to address concussion/player safety issues?
We recognize there continues to be a lot of attention around head injuries. Enhancing player safety is the top priority at the IHSA, and we continue to take steps to safeguard the health and welfare of student-athletes. These include:
• Actively supporting legislation, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin’s Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act, to strengthen procedures for preventing, detecting and treating student-athletes who suffer concussions.
• Strengthening its Return To Play policy, which now requires players exhibiting any signs or symptoms of a concussion to be removed from play and prevented from returning until cleared by a certified athletic trainer or licensed physician.
• Implementing current rules and proposing additional measures aimed at limiting the amount of full-contact practice for high school football teams.
• Requiring all IHSA athletic directors, coaches and volunteers to pass a concussion awareness and certification test every two years.
• Requiring all Illinois student-athletes and their parents read and sign a Concussion Information Sheet, which outlines symptoms of concussions, the dangers of playing after suffering concussions and guidance for how to handle potential concussions.
• Developing a player safety toolkit to provide information and resources to our key stakeholders – student-athletes, parents, coaches, schools, etc. – about how they can play an active role in keeping student-athletes safe.
• Creating the Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety, to serve as an independent advisory council facilitating open and transparent dialogue around head injuries and other player safety issues, reviewing IHSA’s current programs and offering new recommendations to ensure the IHSA remains a leader in student-athlete safety standards and protocols.
• Maintaining relationships with other state associations, the NFHS and the medical community to stay abreast of new research, injury prevention developments and best practices related to all player safety issues.

Q: Why should parents trust that the IHSA has the right protocols and programs in place to protect their children?
As it has been since IHSA’s founding 115 years ago, player safety is our top priority, and we continue to take steps to safeguard the health and welfare of student-athletes. The IHSA has maintained partnerships with other state associations and the medical community, including leading doctors from Children’s Memorial Hospital and Seton Medical Center to stay abreast of new research, injury prevention developments and best practices related to all player safety issues.

Q: What is the purpose of the advisory council? How did you choose the members?
The Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety serves as an independent advisory council facilitating open and transparent dialogue around head injury and other player safety issues, reviewing IHSA’s current programs and offering new recommendations to ensure the IHSA remains a leader in student-athlete safety standards and protocols. This council builds on the efforts of the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee with a keen focus on head injuries, given the specific attention around the issue. We wanted the Council to be reflective of the range of stakeholders who are both passionate about and have expertise in enhancing student-athlete safety, including IHSA alumni Tregg Duerson, Illinois State Senator & NFL veteran Napoleon Harris, Northwestern University Athletic ATC Tory Lindley, ATC & Concussion Blog founder Dustin Fink, IHSA official Sara Flanigan, Batavia High School head football and track & field coach Dennis Piron and current high school student-athletes Ally Hieb and Cole Steward.

Q: How are you working with other state high school association on this issue?
We recognize student-athlete safety is a nationwide priority, and are working with other state high school associations to advance our mission to safeguard the health and welfare of their student-athletes. This includes providing the player safety toolkit as a resource to share with stakeholders in their respective states as well as continuing to engage in a national dialogue with both the NFHS and other state high school associations to stay abreast of new research, injury prevention developments and best practices related to all player safety issues.

Q: Where can I find out more information?
We’ve created to serve as a dedicated resource for information on the campaign.

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