IDPH adjusts youth sports guidelines to allow ‘all sports’ in regions that reach Phase 4; IHSA unveils latest guidance

Mask up. Game on, Illinois high school athletes.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced Friday that regions that reach Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan will be allowed to play intraconference games in higher-risk sports – including football, basketball and wrestling.

In a statement Friday afternoon, the IHSA said it will update its remaining sports calendar at its board meeting Wednesday.

So what does this mean for a return to competition?

Although we still don’t know start dates – and the IHSA could significantly shake up its existing calendar to give every sport its best chance to compete – this obviously bodes well for the higher-risk sports.

Regions 3, 5 and 6 have advanced to Phase 4, while all 11 of the state’s health regions have made progress in recent weeks. As of Friday, all 11 regions have moved out of Tier 3, which is subject to the state’s most restrictive measures, including halting any athletic activities.

Phase 4Tier 1Tier 2Tier 3
Lower-risk sportsNonconference contests, out-of-state contests, tournaments and state series allowedNonconference contests, out-of-state contests, tournaments and state series allowedContests allowed within conference and regionPause all practices and contests
Medium-risk sportsOutdoors: Nonconference contests, out-of-state contests, tournaments and state series allowed. Indoors: Remain at Tier 1 mitigationContests allowed within conference and regionPractices and intra-team scrimmages allowed. No contests or scrimmages vs. other schoolsPause all practices and contests
Higher-risk sportsContests allowed within conference and regionPractices and intra-team scrimmages allowed. No contests or scrimmages vs. other schoolsNo contact practices and trainingPause all practices and contests

Will spectators be allowed?

The number of allowed spectators will vary by what phase or tier a contest is held in. For those within Phase 4, a maximum of 50 spectators are allowed. In Tier 1 regions, a maximum of 25 spectators are allowed. In Tier 2 regions, none are allowed.

There is no differentiation in the number of spectators allowed regardless of whether the sport is indoors or outdoors, the IHSA said. Additionally, the numbers of spectators is not affected or included by players, coaches, game day personnel, etc.

“Host schools may choose to be more restrictive in their spectator policies,” the IHSA said.

What’s the plan until competition starts?

In the meantime, pending individual school district approval, fall, spring, and summer sports are allowed to begin contact days Monday. All lower-risk winter sports must conduct seven days of practices before a contest may be played. For basketball teams, 12 days of practices must be held.

For regions that can conduct football contact days beginning Monday, IHSA bylaw 3.157 will be in effect, which disallows live contact or tackling to the ground during the contact day period.

Facial masks must be worn during both practice and games. Social distancing measures are expected to be adhered to in bench areas.

Jacob Bartelson

Jake is a full-time sports reporter writing primarily for the Kane County Chronicle covering preps. His collective work is featured across several Shaw markets and platforms, including Friday Night Drive and Bears Insider. Jake began full-time in 2017.