IHSA announces Return to Play guidelines

Mindy Carls

The Illinois High School Association allowed high school athletes to begin summer workouts on Saturday, June 6.

IHSA’s board of directors approved a draft of the Return to Play guidelines on Tuesday, May 20. Staff members worked with the Illinois Department of Public Health for approval, which came on Friday, June 5.

“We refuse to compromise safety in this process,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in explaining the delays in issuing the guidelines. He is a native of Cambridge.

The guidelines comply with Phase Three of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan and the IDPH’s best practices, Anderson said.

“The IHSA Return to Play Guidelines offer some important first steps in allowing student-athletes to reacclimate both physically and mentally to athletics, but more importantly, they allow each school to assess their own individual situation and determine if and when they want to proceed,” the executive director said.

Return to Play allows groups of 10 or fewer athletes to work with a coach on strength and conditioning, such as weightlifting and running, but cannot work on their sport’s skills or use their sport’s equipment.

The IHSA highly encourages outdoor workouts over indoor workouts. Participants must observe safety practices and social distancing. They are to wear masks when they cannot stay 6 feet away from others.

Groups of 10 must be pre-determined, and athletes cannot move from one group to another. Athletes in more than one sport should be in a group for their fall sport. Groups cannot interact.

Athletes must bring their own water bottles, shoes, towels and other equipment. They will not be able to use locker rooms and water fountains, or to share water coolers with cups.

Coaches must record attendance at every workout, and determine at the beginning if any athlete is showing signs of COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms should not be allowed to participate and should be referred to a doctor.

“Our kids have been without sports and school for over two months, which has taken a toll on their physical and emotional health, said Dr. Cynthia R. LaBella, a member of the IHSA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Commmittee.

“We purposely designed this first phase to focus solely on strength and conditioning so that kids can gradually rebuild their fitness levels in small peer groups with coach guidance,” she said. “This will get kids moving again with their peers in the safest way possible, which will have a huge positive impact on their physical and emotional well-being.”

The guidelines will be in effect until the IHSA or the Illinois Department of Public Health announce new ones.

“We will continue to seek input from our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, while following guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, on what potentially happens next in late June,” said Anderson.

To view the Return to Play guidelines, visit ihsa.org/default.aspx. In the center of the home page, look for the COVID-19 Update in an orange box, or the IHSA Headlines in a gray box.