BOISE — Student-athletes in Idaho now have official word on how they will be returning to competition this fall. The Idaho High School Activities Association released its guidance on fall sports on Thursday afternoon.
Idaho will be sticking with the traditional fall sports (cross country, football, soccer and volleyball) and the plan is to have athletics at schools as long as the school itself is not closed. Schools statewide, including their athletics programs, have been closed in Idaho since mid-March due to the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The IHSAA noted that if a school or the district is closed due to the virus, then all sports will be canceled too.
The guidance that the IHSAA issued on Thursday was created using guidance from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the IHSAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC).
“The NFHS and IHSAA SMACs believe it is essential to the physical and mental well-being of high school students across the nation to return to physical activity and athletic competition,” the news release states. “It is 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. There will also likely be variation in what sports and activities are allowed to be played and held.”
Fall sports in Idaho are scheduled to start on Aug. 10.
Masks are a big part of the guidance released, as a way to prevent exposure to respiratory droplets.
The IHSAA is asking everyone not part of a strenuous activity wear a mask, including players on the bench and in the locker room, as well as coaches, officials, and other contest personnel.
The NFHS has considered cross country to be a low risk sport. Despite its classification os low-risk, there are still guidelines for how to keep cross country safer.
The IHSAA is suggesting staggering the start time for the runners, in order to limit the number of people in each group. Also, schools will likely be hosting races with fewer participants.
Football is being considered a high risk sport (the only other sport labeled as “high risk” is wrestling).
Football will come with a slew of new rule considerations (which have not been decided on yet) including expanding the team boxes to help maintain social distancing, cleaning the game balls more often, and longer timeouts and not having them at the sidelines.
Soccer is labeled as “moderate risk” and is marked as a sport that could be considered a lower risk if additional measures are taken (participants wearing masks and appropriate cleaning measures are taken).
The NFHS wants teams to consider spreading the benches out so players not participating can social distance. They also want teams to suspend the “pregame world cup introduction line” and instead announce players in a way that social distancing can be maintained.
Like soccer, volleyball is considered moderate risk with the option of being lower risk with additional measures taken.
With volleyball having many tournaments played, the IHSAA is asking teams to have more regional tournaments and restrict the number of teams in a gym at one time.
The IHSAA is also considering suspending the volleyball rule of teams switching benches between sets. This can be amended “in the event there is a clear and distinct disadvantage.” Officials would determine if that disadvantage is present.
Also part of the guidance is having schools and leagues be ready for school closures once competition starts.
“Due to the near certainty of recurrent outbreaks this coming school year in some locales, we 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.”
For sports that culminate in playoffs, the IHSAA is asking that conferences and schools develop protocols in case brackets are changed due to cancellations. If there are no protocols made, then the IHSAA will use MaxPreps rankings to make brackets.
The guide says that superintendents will have the final call for when to make cancellations.
Also, coaches will be going through additional COVID-19 education.
The IHSAA will not be providing waivers for those who are unable to get a physical evaluation due to restricted access with a doctor.