Spring 2021: Return to Competition

Published: March 16, 2021


This document should be considered as providing recommendations from the IHSAA for member schools and may be updated before and during the spring 2021 season.

People (participants, coaches, officials, spectators, etc.) feeling sick or that have been exposed to someone sick, should not attend or participate in competitions or practices. The IHSAA and IGHSAU strongly encourages all participants and spectators to practice social distancing and wear face coverings whenever possible. Local policies may vary, including requiring face coverings for spectators.

Schools are asked to read a public address announcement at the start of each event encouraging social distancing (ex: arm test) and remind spectators to do their part to keep their kids healthy and active.

COVID Basics
  • Social distancing of at least 6 feet when not participating (sideline, waiting for turn, etc.)
  • Continue to train in smaller “pods” of athletes to reduce exposure risk.
  • Close contact is defined by CDC as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic clients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.
    The World Health Organization (WHO) additionally includes persons with direct physical contact with a probable or confirmed case, direct care for a patient with probable or confirmed COVID-19 disease without using proper personal, and other situations as indicated by local risk assessments.
  • Continue to emphasize hygiene.
  • Hand sanitization/cleaning frequently (every time on and off the field) each athlete should be encouraged to have their own bottle of sanitizer.
  • Do not share water or food/snacks.
  • Individual water bottles are permitted.
  • Individual cups of water are permissible.
  • Minimize shared equipment as much as possible and sanitize that equipment frequently.


COVID-19 Coach
  • Designate a coach to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns.
  • All coaches, staff, officials, and families should know who this person is and how to contact them.
  • Train coaches, officials, and staff on all safety protocols. Conduct training virtually, or ensure that social distancing is maintained during training.


  • All students should bring their own water bottles. Water bottles must not be shared.
  • Due to the importance of hydration during practices, athletes should not be allowed to work out if they do not have access to their own water bottle if no other arrangements are put in place.
  • Water cows, water troughs should not be utilized.
  • Water refill stations should be cleaned/disinfected frequently.






Pregame Conference (5-2-2d)
  • Limit attendees to head referee or center referee, the head coach from each team, and a single captain from each team.
  • Move the location of the pregame conference to center of the field. All individuals maintain a social distance of 6 feet.
  • Encourage all individuals involved to wear masks.
  • Suspend handshakes prior to and following the Pregame Conference.


Ball Holders (6-1)
  • Follow social distancing guidelines.


Team Benches (1-5-1)
  • Encourage bench personnel to observe social distancing guidelines.
  • Encourage all athletes and sideline personnel to wear masks.


Substitution Procedures (3-4)
  • Maintain social distancing between the substitute, officials and/or teammate(s) by encouraging substitutions to occur closer to the center line.


Officials Table (6-2; 6-3)
  • Limit to essential personnel which includes home team scorer and timer, with recommended social distance guidelines.
  • Encourage all individuals involved to wear masks.
  • Visiting team personnel (scorer, statisticians, etc.) are not deemed essential personnel and will need to find an alternative location.


Equipment and Accessories (4-1)
  • Cloth face coverings and neck gaiters/buffs are permissible for athletes to wear during play and encouraged for all athletes and sideline personnel.
  • Gloves are permissible.


Legal Uniform (4-2)
  • Long sleeves are permissible. (4-1-1)
  • Long pants are permissible. (4-1-1)
  • Under garments are permissible but must be of a similar length for the individual and a solid like color for team. (4-1-1d)




  • Masks must be worn according to the governor’s mandate upon arrival to the meet venue and until the official warm-ups have started. Face coverings are strongly recommended in all settings where people may come in contact with others, including outdoors when maintaining physical distance is not possible.
  • Coaches and officials are strongly encouraged to wear masks, especially when not able to maintain social distancing.       
  • Spectators should be strongly encouraged to wear masks and are expected to follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Athletes may use “buffs” or neck gaiters. Competitors may find that it is easier for them to mask-up when they feel they need to, and pull it back down without it dropping on the ground.


Set-up and Breakdown Equipment
  • Any equipment used for competition should be disinfected prior to and immediately following the game. Only one individual should handle the equipment on any given day (i.e. resistance bands, mats, cones/flags, etc.).


  • Sanitized before and after each game.
  • Switching the ball at intervals during play, having multiple available on the sideline and sanitizing the ball that is removed from play, before entering it back into the game.
  • If ball shaggers are used, they could disinfect the balls between use, and should wear a mask and gloves.


Other Equipment
  • Towels – Athletes and officials should bring their own towels, if needed.
  • Foam Rollers, Resistance Bands, etc. – Should not be shared among athletes.


Other Hygiene Considerations
  • There should be no shared athletic equipment. Any equipment that is used should be cleaned and disinfected prior to and immediately following the meet. Be responsible for your own supplies.
  • Athletes, coaches, and officials are encouraged to provide their own hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) and/or sanitizing wipes and use frequently.
  • Emphasize to avoid touching the face throughout practice and competition.
  • Spitting/Nose Clearing/Coughing – All athletes and coaches are prohibited from spitting/nose clearing and must cover coughs.
  • Athletes, coaches and staff should avoid touching doors, gates, fences, benches or other schools’ equipment.


General Reminders for Athletes
  • Personal Items – It is recommended that each athlete bring their own gym bag for personal items. Gym bags should be placed in a predetermined area 6 feet apart for the duration of the event. No shared clothing/shoes.
  • Athletes are encouraged to provide their own hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) and use frequently.
  • Water bottle – All athletes shall bring their own water bottle. Water bottles must not be shared.
  • Tell coaches immediately when you are not feeling well.




Competition Structure
  • Encourage only local, single opponent, single day competitions.
  • Teams from the same school (varsity and JV) should remain on the same sideline. Social Distancing
  • Warm-ups/Stretching – Maintain social distancing between players.
  • Congregating of Athletes and/or Coaches – Discourage congregating upon arrival to the field, prior to game warm-ups, and immediately following the game.
  • Huddles – Social distancing to be maintained as much as possible when the coach is communicating with the entire team or in smaller groups. All players and coaches should be encouraged to mask during huddles, especially non-active players.
  • Elimination of Team Handshakes – Teams may find other respectful ways to acknowledge each other before or after a competition, while maintaining social distancing.
  • National Anthem – Align team members in a manner that allows them to maintain social distancing guidelines.
  • Interaction with Officials – Coaches and officials should maintain social distancing when interacting
  • Coin Toss – Eliminate and determine protocol (i.e., teams will defend the end of the field where their team bench is located for the first half. Home team will kick off in the first half, visiting team will kick off in the second half.)
  • Reduce the number of individuals at the coin toss.
  • Starting line-ups/Introductions – Introduce from positions, after players have taken the field, and other athletes are socially distanced in the team box.
  • Playing Field and Sideline area
  • Allow only essential personnel on the playing field. These are defined as athletes, coaches, medical personnel/trainers, and officials. Encourage facial coverings.
  • All others (i.e. managers, photographers, media, etc.) are considered non-essential personnel and are not to be on the field of play. Adhere to social distancing guidelines and encourage facial coverings.
  • Team Box – Designate “places”, within the team box, for members of the team to be when they are not on the field. Consider paint and/or tape to help athletes recognize social distancing.
  • Substitutions – Designate a safe area for players entering the game. Minimize contact with the table and with each other.
  • Departing the Field of Play (post game) – The visiting team should depart the field immediately after the completion of the game, followed by the home team. Every effort should be made to ensure that a log-jam does not occur upon departure of the two teams.


  • Follow county guidelines on limiting spectators.
  • Face covering requirements – Event Personnel, Media, Spectators – consider having masks available to purchase or to provide for those who may have forgotten to bring one • Ticket sales – If unable to eliminate on-site sales, consider steps to establish social distancing and provide a sanitization station. • Pedestrian flow – Create protocols and signage to address ingress and egress areas and high traffic areas to avoid congestion. Consider using stanchions, tape or paint as a guide, communicate in advance and create signage. • Seating – Establish a procedure for all indoor and outdoor venues that allows for social distancing guidelines. The number of spectators allowed must be in accordance with state/local regulations for gathering sizes.




Officials are not responsible for monitoring activities on the sidelines, such as social distancing, hand washing, symptoms of illnesses and other such issues. This monitoring remains with the coaching staff and school personnel.

  • By state association adoption, long-sleeved shirt/jackets are permissible. (Rule 5-1-3)
  • No sharing of game shirts or AR flags for competition.
  • Encourage face covering/mask use for AR’s who may be near to team benches and/or fans. Consider mask use for all officials during games.
  • Electronic whistles are permissible. Bring an extra battery. Choose a whistle whose tone will carry outside.
    • Fox 40 Mini
    • Fox 40 Unisex Electronic – 3 tone
    • Ergo-Guard (3 tone) –orange
    • Windsor (3 tone) – grey
    • Consider other similar items in marketplace
  • Bring your own water bottle(s).
  • Bring your own supplies (gear, pencil, headset, etc.).
  • Coin Toss – check with game administration regarding their decision on the coin toss protocol.
  • Bring personal hand sanitizer. Wash hands frequently. Gloves are permissible.
  • Eliminate hand shake and follow social distancing guidelines.




  • Communicate your guidelines in a clear manner to students and parents. Athlete safety is paramount
  • Communicate expectations regarding minimizing the spread of the virus and the habits that will contribute.
  • Remind players to use hand sanitizer when prior to going on the competition field and after returning to the sideline.
  • Follow the CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting the competition venue.
Department Public Safety