WINTER 2020-21

Updated: February 9, 2021

Original Publish Date: October 20, 2020


Information and guidance relating to COVID-19 for member schools and participants of IHSAA activities in the winter 2020-21 seasons.

Winter Sport-Specific Guidance

This document should be considered as providing recommendations from IHSAA & IGHSAU for their member schools, and should not supersede guidelines, mandates, requirements, and/or orders put into place by the:

  • Iowa Governor’s Office
  • Iowa Department of Public Health
  • Iowa Department of Education
  • Federal, local or county government entities
  • Federal, local or county health departments
  • Local School Districts


For more information and other departmental links, please view the IHSAA’s COVID-19 Resource Center.


February 9 Update


On Friday, February 5, Governor Reynolds issued an updated public health proclamation which in part addressed gatherings. Although the proclamation does not limit spectators to a certain number per participant nor “households,” Section 22 of the Proclamation states:

“I strongly encourage that a gathering organizer or host take reasonable measures under the circumstances of each gathering to ensure the health of participants and members of the public, including social distancing practices, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 consistent with guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Public Health.”

As previously planned, we will be limiting seating at our State Wrestling, Basketball and Bowling events. Our State Boys’ Swimming meet will have no fans. We will require masks at our state events.

Considering the Governor’s proclamation as well as our responsibility to keep our athletes, coaches, officials, IHSAA staff, fans and other personnel safe, we encourage all schools to continue to limit fans in order to allow for social distancing. Hosts should require fans to wear masks at all high school athletic events. 

January 12 Update


The Department of Education today provided this interpretation to the Scholarship Rule as updated in Governor Reynolds’ latest proclamation:

“The Governor’s Office and the Department believe the best public policy is to interpret the proclamation language to give every student athlete an academic fresh start. This is due to the difficulties some districts have faced in implementing remote learning and the large scale need of keeping student athletes connected to education.”

Therefore, effective immediately, all students who failed a course during the last grading period and are serving a 30-day suspension under the Scholarship Rule are immediately eligible. Music and Speech have adopted this same eligibility accommodation for their students.

January 8 Update


Updated IHSAA & IGHSAU guidance following Governor Reynolds’ public health proclamation on January 7, 2021 included the following measures for junior high and high school sports, effective Friday, January 8 at 12:01 a.m. through at 11:59 p.m. on February 6, 2021.

The proclamation language removed the spectator restrictions with regard to who can attend and the numbers allowed. There are no limits per participant, coach, performer, etc. The total number of spectators allowed is up to schools, based on what the facility’s capacity is and the social distancing requirements.


The provisions on social distancing and masks are under section 6 of the proclamation:

Section 6

B. Sporting and recreational gatherings: Except for collegiate or professional sporting or recreational gatherings, all sporting and recreational gatherings, including sporting, recreational and other extracurricular gatherings sponsored by a high school, must comply with the following requirements:

  1. Social Distancing Required: The gathering organizer and all spectators must ensure at least six feet of physical distance between each group of spectators.”
  2. Masks Required: Although athletes or student participants are not required to wear a mask while participating in a gathering, all other participants and spectators over the age of two shall wear a mask or other face covering for all gatherings.



Q. Does this proclamation also apply to middle schools?

A. Yes. Section 6 B refers to all recreational gatherings.

Q. Are schools required to allow more spectators or may they follow previous plans of household members for each participant?

A. Schools can determine their spectator limits. Any guidelines more restrictive (fewer than the proclamation allows) are permissible. Schools/conferences may continue with their spectator plans based on the more restrictive guidelines in the December 16 proclamation if they desire.

Q. Are schools required to enforce social distancing for spectators?

A. The proclamation directly states: “the gathering organizer….must ensure” that there is six feet of social distancing between each group of spectators. A school is considered the gathering organization.

Q. Do social distancing and masks requirements in this proclamation apply to speech and music activities?

A. Yes, music and speech events must comply with the social distancing and masks requirements listed above.

Q. Was there any change to members of the same households having to wear masks and social distance?

A. Members of the same household still may sit together, but must social distance from others. Masks are still required. Nothing in the proclamation changed those requirements.

Q. Must schools clear the gym between games?

A. Schools must ensure that the number of spectators in the gym safely allows 6 feet of social distancing at all times. Schools are responsible for determining how to monitor spectator seating from game to game.

October 20 Post 

Information below may be outdated or superseded by more recent proclamations and guidance. Please see above. 

  • Schools deciding to not participate in a sport should send written notice from its superintendent or designated school official to IHSAA executive director Tom Keating by November 16.


Eligibility for Students in Districts That Do Not Offer One or More Winter Sports

Two options exist:

  • The District not offering the sport may develop a cooperative sharing agreement with a district that does offer the sport. This may jeopardize the host school’s post-season eligibility if the combined enrollment moves the host school to the next enrollment class.  As per 36.15(4)(b)
  • Students in a district not offering the sport may open enroll to another district and would be immediately eligible to participate in that sport. In such a situation, students who open enroll would be ineligible for varsity competition in all sports which their home district offers.  As per 36.15(4)(a)


Academic Eligibility

All students were eligible this fall. First trimester and first semester grades will be determined for eligibility beyond the initial fall. All students must be enrolled in at least and equivalent of four courses to be eligible.


Pre-Participation Physicals

As per the amendment issued by Governor Reynolds on June 25, all physicals signed on or after July 1, 2019 are good through December of 2020.

Schools should use the previous PPE form for the 2020-2021 school year. The revised PPE form has not been approved for distribution.



Guidelines will reflect school transportation guidelines which will come from the Department of Education.


Possible/Positive COVID-19 Cases
  • The Iowa Department of Public Health has worked with county health departments and schools regarding protocols when a student and/or student-athlete reports COVID-19 symptoms, a positive COVID-19 test result or contact with a person with a positive COVID-19 test result.
  • Each school should identify a point of contact for athletes, coaches, and other personnel to report to when he/she experiences COVID-19 symptoms, a positive COVID-19 test result or contact with a person with a positive COVID-19 test result. This identified person will be responsible to report such situations to local public health.
  • Each school should develop a communication plan to notify relevant persons (players, coaches, spectators) when contact-tracing indicates the need to.


Health Screening
  • Schools should implement health screening for practices and games similar to methods used during baseball/ softball and the fall seasons. Self-screening and reporting to the school representative (AD/Coach/Trainer, etc.) is permissible.
  • Any individual reporting symptoms and/or a temperature of 100.4F or higher should be isolated until they can safely transport home.


Social Distancing

The overarching safety principal in all areas of athletic activities (meetings, practices, travel, instruction, drills, benches, spectators, locker rooms, training rooms, concessions, restrooms, etc.) is that individuals should maintain 6 feet of social distancing.


Hand Sanitizing

Student-athletes should be encouraged to frequently sanitize their hands before, during and after practice and competition.  Non-touch hand sanitizers may be used.  Student-athletes should have their own personal hand sanitizer.

Individuals should especially sanitize before touching “common” equipment or other items.


Equipment Sanitizing

Any equipment that is shared by student-athletes should be sanitized before and after practice as well as before and after competition.



Individuals should never share towels.  Each individual should bring or be issued his/her own clean towel at the beginning of practice or competition. Towels should be laundered after each practice and game.


Locker Rooms
  • Locker rooms may be used and should be sanitized every day and after use by each and every group. Schools should coordinate with their maintenance departments regarding sanitizing.
  • All school-issued and personal clothing, equipment and other items should be taken home following practices and/or contests. Locker rooms should not be used as a storage area for clothing and/or equipment.
  • Players, coaches and others using locker rooms should maintain 6 feet of social distancing. This may require a rotating schedule for use of locker rooms to avoid congestion.  A record of individuals in each rotation should be kept to facilitate contact-tracing if necessary.
  • Players, coaches and others using locker rooms are strongly encouraged to wear masks while in the locker room.
  • Visitor locker room should be identified and should be sanitized prior to arrival of team and after departure of team.


  • Each individual student-athlete should have their own water container.
  • If a hydration station (e.g. cooler) is provided, individuals must sanitize their hands prior to using the hydration station. An alternative practice is to assign one person to fill water bottles and that person should wear a mask and protective gloves.
  • Host schools may provide a water source for visitors but visitors should bring their own hydration station (cooler).


  • Schools should implement spectator protocols by following CDC and local department of health guidelines regarding size of gatherings and social distancing.
  • Spectators should use 6 feet social distancing. Families may sit/stand together but should social distance from others.  Frequent reminders should be made via public address.
  • Just as businesses may require customers to wear masks, schools may require spectators to wear masks.


Scorer’s Bench

These areas should be limited to:

  • Essential personnel – Scorekeeper, scoreboard operator, announcer
  • Media (as per guidelines below)

Individuals at scorer’s table should practice 6 feet social distancing.


  • Schools should communicate with media regarding protocols for practices and games. It is recommended that:
    • Space be provided for media game coverage that takes into consideration:
      • 6 feet of social distancing
      • Priority given to: 1) home team coverage; 2) visiting team coverage; 3) other coverage
    • Procedure be established regarding interview requests prior to/after practices and games, including
      • Identifying an area where interviews will be conducted.
      • Establishing a required advanced notice timeframe.


Concession Stands
  • The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals provides the guidance on school concession stands.
  • If concession stands are open, patrons should practice 6 feet of social distancing.


Training Rooms
  • All individuals utilizing the training room should wear a face mask at all times.
  • Host site athletic training room should not be available for visiting team pregame and postgame treatments.
  • If a team travels without an athletic trainer, all pregame taping, bracing, etc., should be completed before departure to the game. Host site athletic trainer should be contacted prior to the trip to plan for any requested accommodations.
  • All taping/exam tables should be disinfected before and after each use.
  • All taping/exam tables should be distanced at least 6 feet apart.
  • Cold and hot tubs should only be used by one individual at a time.
  • Cold and hot tubs should be drained, cleaned and disinfected between individual use and at the beginning and end of every day.


Participation Levels
  • This guidance is intended for high school varsity, subvarsity, and junior high school activities as overseen by the IHSAA.
  • Subvarsity and junior high sports are approved to resume IHSAA activities in the 2020-21 school year.