IHSA formally approves next stage of Return to Play Guidelines

Programs can begin as soon as July 5, but that depends on individual district approval

The IHSA formally announced on Friday the approval of its next stage of Return to Play Guidelines after receiving approval from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Member schools can begin implementation as soon as Sunday, but individual school districts must make formal approval.

The IHSA sent a board-approved draft June 15, then worked with IDPH for formalization.

The IHSA no longer will reference each progression in the guidelines as "stages." Instead, it will refer to them as "phases," and the previous first stage of Return to Play guidelines now will be "Phase 3" in order to match verbiage of the state's Restore Illinois Plan.

IHSA coaches can conduct team activities on 20 contact days between June 30 and Aug. 9.

Gatherings of up to 50 individuals both indoors and outdoors are allowed. Thirty feet of distance must be maintained between groups of 50 when outside. While indoors, groups of 50 – no matter the spacing – is the maximum.

Sport-specific athletic equipment should be cleaned between each use, and items such as football helmets or wrestling ear coverings should be worn by one individual.

For contests, group sizes are to be limited to 50 total participants, coaches and referees, which excludes spectators. No handshakes, high-fives or related actions can occur before or after events.

Coaches and volunteers must wear a mask. Officials must wear a mask when actively exercising as part of their duties and use an electronic whistle.

"Mouth whistles and blow horns are not allowed for safety," the guidelines say.

Participants are to be encouraged to wear a mask if feasible for the sport.

If schools choose to allow spectators, the guidelines specify that there should be a designated space with existing seating capped at 20% capacity, and allows 6 feet of distancing between families.

“Safety remains at the forefront of everything that the IHSA is doing as we move into Phase 4 and beyond,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement.

“We appreciate the collaborative efforts of the SMAC and IDPH in recognizing the physical, mental, and emotional benefits for our student-athletes and coaches as they progress into training in a more traditional practice setting. Our focus now shifts to continuing to work with state leadership to determine how to provide the safest environment possible for fall sports.”