Spring 2021: Return to Competition

Published: Feb. 22, 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.

General Guidelines

  • Social distancing of at least 6 feet should be maintained as much as possible. No hugging, shaking hands, high fives, or fist bumps for support/encouragement. It is recommended that all coaches and participants wear masks except during competition. 
  • Shot put, discus – social distancing should be enforced for all athletes and officials. To limit contact, athletes shall provide their own implements and retrieve their own implements after all throws this year (teammates may assist in the retrieving of implements if desired).  If athletes can’t provide their own implements, it is recommended that implements be sanitized between each use.  Please note that sanitizing does not equal foreign substance (officials, please use common sense).
  • Long jump – social distancing should be enforced for all athletes and officials.
  • High jump – social distancing should be enforced for all athletes and officials. To lower the risk of the high jump at practices and meets, the mat may be disinfected at each height change.
  • Sprint, hurdle, and relay events run entirely in lanes, event management may use every other lane to assist with social distancing (please note the state qualifying meets and state meets with use each lane in competition).  Blocks may be disinfected by the host school after each heat/race.  It is recommended not using baskets at the start line for apparel.


Possible Rule Change Considerations:

  • Rule 5-10-5 Current rule: The baton is the implement which is used in a relay race and is handed by each competitor to a succeeding teammate.  Gloves are permitted in relay races and in individual events.
  • Schools should bring their own batons and they should be disinfected after each heat/race.


Considerations for Coaches:

  • Communicate your guidelines in a clear manner to students and parents.
  • Consider conducting workouts in “pods” of same students always training and rotating together in practice to ensure more limited exposure if someone develops an infection.
  • Keep accurate records of those athletes and staff who attend each practice in case contact tracing is needed.
  • Team Camp Considerations – Social distancing from other teams as much as possible is strongly recommended. Coaches should consider the number of individuals within the camp.  Also, the size of the tents including whether to include the sides of the tent should also be considered.  Limit the outside food brought in by teams.


 Considerations for Students:

  • Consider making each student responsible for their own supplies.
  • Students should wear their own appropriate workout clothing (do not share clothing), and individual clothing/towels should be washed and cleaned after every workout immediately upon returning home.
  • Hand sanitizer should be plentiful at all contests and practices.
  • Athletes should tell coaches immediately when they are not feeling well.
  • Cloth face coverings are permitted.
  • Bring your own labeled water bottle.
  • Finish Protocols – Student/Athletes should remain upright through the finish line area with the understanding that there will be times that a participant may need medical attention.
  • Start Protocols – Student/Athletes should have individual bags and locations for sweats – no mass piling of team clothing.


Considerations for Officials:

  • Bring personal hand sanitizer. Wash hands frequently.
  • Don’t share equipment.
  • Follow social distancing guidelines during the meet
  • Consider using electronic whistle
  • Do not shake hands and follow pre and post-game ceremony guidelines established by state associations.
  • Officials personnel are strongly encouraged to wear cloth face coverings at all times.


Considerations for Parents:

A family’s role in maintaining safety guidelines for themselves and others: 

  • Make sure your child and immediate household members are free from illness before participating in practice and competition (if there is doubt stay home),
  • Provide personal items for your child and clearly label them.
  • The use of cloth face coverings is strongly encouraged. In addition, social distancing is strongly encouraged as much as possible for non-participants, parents, coaches, officials, and other meet volunteers.


Considerations for Administration: 

  • Facility Sanitization – Consideration should be given to which facilities are going to need sanitization, how often will sanitization be needed, who will be doing the sanitizing
  • Post-season – Potential options may be considered regarding the state qualifying meets and state meet depending upon the status of Covid-19. Further communication will occur as the season progresses.
  • Locker rooms may be utilized however the Dept of Public Health guidelines must be adhered to. (department of Public Health link)
  • Concession stands may be opened provided they have been inspected and licensed.
  • Limit the outside food brought in by teams/spectators.
  • Admission may be taken using sanitization practices or a free-will donation container is an option as well.
  • The DOE Transportation guidelines should be followed when travelling as a team.
  • Administration should consider the number of teams participating in the event, the levels participating in the meet, and the number of participants participating in the meet.



It is the responsibility of the home team to provide proper administrative supervision (not the coach) at contests to assure compliance with the guidelines set forth by the Governor’s office, the Department of Education, the Department of Public Health, the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.


Possible/Positive COVID-19 Cases

  • The Iowa Department of Public Health has developed guidance for 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.


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.
  • Athletes, 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. 
  • Athletes, coaches and others using locker rooms are strongly encouraged to wear masks while in the locker room.



  • 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.
  • Per IGHSAU/IHSAA, all spectators are strongly encouraged to wear masks.


Press Box

These areas should be limited to:

  • Essential personnel – FAT timers, backup timers, scoreboard operator, announcer
  • Media (as per guidelines below)

Individuals in the press box should practice 6 feet social distancing and are strongly encouraged to wear masks.



  • Schools should communicate with media regarding protocols for practices and meets. It is recommended that:
    • Space be provided for media coverage that takes into consideration:
      • 6 feet of social distancing and masks are strongly encouraged.
    • Procedure be established regarding interview requests prior to/after practices and meets, including
      • Identifying an area where interviews will be conducted.
      • Establishing a required advanced notice timeframe.


Training Rooms

  • All individuals utilizing the training room are strongly encouraged to 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.
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