Welcome To Play Smart. Play Hard.

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Thank you for your interest in Play Smart. Play Hard., the Illinois High School Association’s (IHSA) campaign focused on furthering our commitment to enhancing the safety of student-athletes in Illinois – and across the nation.

Over 100 years ago, the IHSA was founded upon the core belief that high school athletics bring tremendous value to student-athletes – from lifelong lessons in hard work, perseverance and teamwork to memories and friendships that last a lifetime. As a former student-athlete, I look back fondly on my days playing baseball, basketball and football for New Berlin High School, which have made a tremendous impact on my life and career.

I’m also a father of two sons and, like you, recognize there is an element of risk in athletics too. There is nothing more important to me personally and professionally than the health and safety of our children. While the IHSA remains extremely proud of the progress we have made in the area of player safety, we know there is more work to be done. That’s where Play Smart. Play Hard. comes in. As part of this campaign, we’re focused on helping to educate student-athletes, parents, coaches, schools and others on how we can better protect our children on the field.

But the IHSA can’t do this work alone – we know that this issue is bigger than any one group and want to partner with anyone who shares our mission and dedication to enhancing the safety of our student-athletes. This means working with athletes themselves, parents, coaches, athletic directors, principals, former Illinois student-athletes, the Illinois medical community, elected officials and national organizations like the National Federation of State High School Associations and other state high school associations around the country to address these important issues facing student-athletes today and in the future.

As I look back on my 24 years with the IHSA and all that we’ve accomplished, there is nothing I’m prouder of than the work we are doing together to help to protect the health and safety of our student-athletes. Thank you for your continued support, as Illinois leads the way on student-athlete safety.


Dr. Marty Hickman
Executive Director
Illinois High School Association