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Idaho High School Activities Association announces return-to-play plans for fall

"It is the goal of the Idaho High School Activities Association to start all activities on time this fall."
Credit: KTVB

BOISE, Idaho — Officials with the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA), along with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), have released a contingency plan for starting high school sports practices for the fall 2020 season.

"It is the goal of the Idaho High School Activities Association to start all activities on time this fall," the IHSAA said in the plan, released Thursday afternoon.

In a multi-page document, both the IHSAA and the NFHS list goals and requirements for all Idaho prep teams to follow in order to return to play. While they are currently mandatory, these requirements are subject to change based on directives from the governor’s office, the Idaho State Board of Education or the Idaho High School Activities Association Board of Directors.  

In order to return to play, school districts must follow these four requirements:

  1. All schools that host events are required to have a plan in place for fans and teams in attendance. That plan must include a 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. 
    1. 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. A plan in place if a student-athlete or coach who is directly involved with the program were to test positive for COVID-19. That program must be formulated in conjunction with the local school board and the local health department.  
  4. A 'return to participate' plan formulated in conjunction with the local school board and local health department.

Along with those requirements, IHSAA and NFHS also released contingency planning recommendations that can be implemented by school districts should they choose, including following guidelines issued by local health departments.

All IHSAA-backed fall sports will start on August 10. Any changes to the calendar will be made on a week-to-week basis. If a game is canceled, it must be related to and backed by the COVID-19 guideline, with that decision made by the district superintendent.

All coaches and students should be screened for signs or symptoms of COVID-19 prior to a workout, including temperature checks.

The document also laid out which sports are considered high-risk, moderate-risk and low-risk when it comes to possible coronavirus transmission:

High-risk sports: Wrestling, football, performance and competitive cheer & dance/drill (stunting)

Moderate-risk sports: Basketball, volleyball*, baseball*, softball*, tennis*, swimming relays, pole vault**, high jump**, long jump**, bowling**, and 7 on 7 football  

*if the equipment can’t be sufficiently cleaned between competitors. 

**Could potentially be considered low-risk with appropriate cleaning of equipment and use of masks by participants.

Low-risk sports: Individual running events, throwing events (javelin, shot put, discus), individual swimming, golf, weightlifting, performance and non-competitive dance/drill (no stunting), and cross country running (with staggered starts).

All athletes are encouraged to wear face coverings during transportation to games and practices, and during practices and/or games if they choose. Coaches, officials, and other personnel are strongly encouraged to wear cloth face coverings at all times, including practices and games. Plastic shields covering the entire face, or attached to a helmet, are not allowed.

The biggest challenge will likely be the elimination of the pre- and post-game traditions: the high fives, fist bumps, congratulatory hugs. All are strongly discouraged this season.

Instead, teams will be encouraged to do the following:

Football: Raise their helmets 

Volleyball, swimming, basketball & soccer: waive their hands 

Baseball/Softball & Golf: Tip their caps

Tennis: Lift their racquets

Spectators and vendors are considered non-essential and are strongly discouraged from attending events until restrictions on mass gatherings are lifted. The IHSAA has grouped people into tiers from essential to non-essential and decided which tiers will be allowed: 

  • Tier 1 (Essential): Athletes, coaches, officials, event staff, medical staff, security 
  • Tier 2 (Preferred): Media 
  • Tier 3 (Non-essential): Spectators, vendors

FOOTBALL

  • If games are canceled, those games will be eliminated with no make-ups and the schedule will continue as needed.
  • If the cancellation of a game is due to COVID-19 concerns, it would not be considered a forfeit and there would be no fines issued.
  • Fans will be limited as needed based on school district plans. 
  • Conferences and schools should develop representation protocols in case the tournament bracket changes.
    • If no protocols are made, the IHSAA will develop it using MaxPreps.
    • If the regular season is suspended, MaxPreps will be used to determine #1 vs. #2, semi-final and quarter-final matchups.
    • Bowl games may be played only if the season is suspended.
    • Have contingency plans for the playoffs in place prior to the beginning of the season.

SOCCER

  • If the cancellation of a game is due to COVID-19 concerns, it would not be considered a forfeit and there would be no fines issued. 
  • Fans will be limited as needed based on school district plans. 
  • Conferences and schools should develop representation protocols in case the tournament bracket changes.  
    • If no protocols are made, the IHSAA will develop it using MaxPreps.
    • Modify district tournaments if needed. 
    • Have contingency plans for the playoffs in place prior to the beginning of the season.

Considerations to rule changes:

  • Suspend the pregame world cup introduction line and send players to their field positions with bench personnel lined up on the touchline (3-6 feet apart) for introductions.
  • Suspend post-game protocol of shaking hands.

CROSS COUNTRY

  • Fans will be limited as needed based on school district plans. 
  • Plan for smaller meets and have participation limits. 
  • Stagger the start time of the races and runners. 
  • Limit out of state teams. 
  • Slot practice schedule times to limit larger groups.
  • Face coverings as an option at meets
  • Do not shake hands and follow pre and post-game ceremony guidelines established by state associations.

VOLLEYBALL

  • If the cancellation of a game is due to COVID-19 concerns, it would not be considered a forfeit and there would be no fines issued. 
  • Restricting the number of teams in a gym. 
  • Fans will be limited as needed based on school district plans.
  • Conferences and schools should develop representation protocols in case the tournament bracket changes. 
    • If no protocols are made, the IHSAA will develop it using MaxPreps.
    • Regional tournaments if needed. 
    • Have contingency plans for the playoffs in place prior to the beginning of the season.

Considerations to rule changes:

  • Suspend roster submission at the prematch conference. 
    • Rosters are submitted directly to the officials’ table before the 10-minute mark.
  • Suspend the use of the coin toss to determine serve/receive. 
    • The visiting team will serve first in set 1 and alternate first serve for the remaining non-deciding sets.
  • Suspend the protocol of teams switching benches between sets. 
    • In the event there is a clear and distinct disadvantage, teams may switch sides, observing all social distancing protocols. 
    • Officials will determine if a disadvantage is present.

SWIMMING 

  • Use facility-driven decisions. 
  • Modify the schedule as needed. 
  • Fans will be limited as needed based on school district plans. 
  • Plan for smaller meets and have participation limits. 
  • Use virtual meets when possible.

Considerations to rule changes:

  • Require athletes to arrive at the venue already in competitive attire or provide alternative accommodations for swimmers and divers to change that allows for 6 feet of social distancing.
  • Only one person per lane should be permitted at the turning end.

For a complete of these rules and guidelines, click here.

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