IHSAA releases guidelines for safe return of high school sports

IHSAA releases health guidelines for "opening up" high school sports
IHSAA releases health guidelines for "opening up" high school sports

The Idaho High School Activities Association released guidelines for the safe return of sports across the state on Thursday, recognizing that there will be a variation in which sports and activities will be allowed this year.

Partnering with the NFHS and IHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committees, the IHSAA created four main requirements of each school district, while the rest of the information is listed as “suggestion.”

What stands out immediately is that cloth face covering requirements should be ‘strictly followed’ according to the state, local or school district guidelines. Medical grade masks are not deemed necessary.

Exceptions to wearing the cloth face covering are for sports like swimming, distance running and other high intensity aerobic activity. Cloth face coverings may continue to be used during category 3 when not engaging in vigorous activity, such as sitting on the bench during contests, in the locker room and in the athletic training room.

Plastic shields will not be permitted during play, even shields attached to a helmet as they can “increase the risk of unintended injury to the person wearing the shield or their teammates.”

Coaches, officials and other contest personnel must wear cloth face coverings at all times. Whistles can be replaced with artificial noisemakers like air horn timers or a timer systems with an alarm.

Testing regimen for COVID-19, mass gatherings, and response to positive tests of athletic personnel is still under review. The IHSAA cites a lack of resources and the constant evolution of what we know about the coronavirus as to why they will wait on those guidelines.

They also admit that outbreaks are inevitable, and each school district must be prepared for “periodic school closures and the possibility of some teams having to isolate or quarantine for two to three weeks while in-season, possibly multiple times.” If that happens, there will be no practice, training or competition involving athletes in that school district.

Schools are asked to create their own plan when it comes to the following:

1. All schools who host events are required to have a plan in place for fans and team’s attendance. This must include reference to the Governors reopening guidelines for Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each district’s school board, in conjunction with guidance from the local health department must approve the plan before games can be hosted.
a. School districts may use the Governors reopening guidelines or come up with guidelines of their own, in conjunction with guidance from the local health department.
2. A transportation plan, when applicable, for practices and games.
3. Plan to deal with positive test of student athlete or coach involved directly with the program formulated in conjunction with the local school board and local health department.
4. Return to participate plan formulated in conjunction with the local school board and local health department.

A recommendation we’ve become accustomed to is at the end of their points of emphasis: “To the extent possible, hold as much practice, conditioning, and contests outside. Try to limit time spent indoors in a group to the extent practical.”

Conduct of conditioning, practice sessions, and contests will depend on the phase of opening of one’s county. They do recommend temperature checks for coaches and athletes prior to a workout, along with screening for other symptoms of COVID-19.

The document also lists the specific rules for different categories of risk-level. Red is the worst and most limiting, yellow is the middle and green looks the most “normal” but still encourages social distancing and serious hygiene.

The document released Thursday emphasizes, “it is not likely that ALL students will be able to return to — and sustain – athletic activity at the same time in all schools and regions in Idaho.” IHSAA says in other circumstances, they would not support some sports returning when others can’t, but both the NFHS and SMAC endorse the return of athletic activity because it’s essential to the mental and physical well-being of high school students.