As part of its authorization of fall high school sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indiana High School Athletic Association has made available a template of advice on staying safe during competition.
The organization has compiled a detailed package of recommendations for behavior through its COVID-19 Resource Center for teams schedule to competie in golf, tennis, cross-country, soccer, volleyball and football.
While endorsing the concept of Indiana high schools resuming the menu of sports competitions after the entire state was shut down for spring competition, the IHSAA effort stresses safety.
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“The IHSAA fully supports its member schools in determining what is in the best interests of the health and well-being of their student-athletes and staff,” the governing body of Indiana high school sports included in a statement issued last week.
Girls golf is already underway, and other sports are scheduled to begin games and matches within a matter of days.
“It will be the decision of each local school district to determine if they can safely conduct athletic practices and contests,” the statement continued.
The resource center will be updated as more information becomes available related to the virus that has affected more than 19 million people worldwide and killed more than 700,000.
“As a service organization to our member schools, we thought it would be a valuable resource for administrators and coaches to reference during the pandemic to receive the latest information and answers to questions they might have,” IHSAA public information director Jason Wille said.
Indiana high schools have been authorized to perform conditioning drills and hold practices with increasing vigor over the last month while following social distancing guidelines and strict testing programs.
The Brownstown Central football team had to take a hiatus from practice after a member tested positive. The Seymour volleyball team is currently in a 14-day quarantine also because of positive results.
In a statement released Friday, Seymour Athletic Director Kirk Manns said the quarantine includes members of the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity teams. Practice can resume Aug. 18.
Several scheduled early season volleyball matches have been affected. The team cannot begin play until Aug. 27.
Wille said IHSAA officials are aware of the Seymour situation. Commissioner Paul Neidig, who just took over the top job for the association, and others at headquarters are trying to learn of all incidents of positive tests in programs around the state.
“We’ve asked all schools to contact us to let us know of positive tests and sports affected, but we’re still very early in the process,” Wille said.
The IHSAA advice is extensive, going on for several pages per sport in some cases. In football, cloth masks are allowed, but plastic shields are not. The ball is supposed to be “cleaned and sanitized throughout the contest as recommended by the ball manufacturer.”
Also, it is urged that before, during and after games, players, coaches, game officials and other administrators should “wash and sanitize their hands as often as possible.” Social distancing of 6 feet should be emphasized on the sidelines.
The tradition of handshakes between captains before kickoff and between teams after the final gun will not be followed.
There is more built-in contact in football and other sports than there is in cross-country. One recommendation for course design was to make them 6 feet wider at the narrowest point and the starting line should be as wide as possible.
Physical contact in the form of shaking hands, hugging or fist bumps for support or encouragement should be eliminated.
Officials should not call runners to the starting line more than 5 minutes prior to the race start.
If no fully automatic timing is used, officials should consider scoring races only by places to address congestion at the finish line.
Tennis guidelines include the suggestion for doubles to “coordinate with your partner to maintain physical distancing.” Also, “use your racket/foot to pick up balls and hit them to your opponent.”
Sport-specific suggestions are mentioned for all fall sports, but some general guidelines are endorsed by the IHSAA for all games and matches, including an emphasis on frequent handwashing, use of sanitizer, not mingling too closely or holding crowded award gatherings.
“Every school is different, and every athletics activity is different,” the IHSAA stated. “Certain mitigation strategies may be feasible in one school for one activity but not for another.”