IHSA has eyes on Phase 2 to return to play. What progress have other states made?

  • Players and coaches masked up to leave after Naperville North was among the first to hold organized high school sports practices.

      Players and coaches masked up to leave after Naperville North was among the first to hold organized high school sports practices. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/29/2020 9:20 AM

Illinois is on the precipice of moving to Stage 2 of the Illinois High School Association's Return to Play plan.

Athletes have been lifting weights and conditioning in groups of 10 or fewer since Stage 1 took effect June 5.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Stage 2 would allow for athletic practices and contests while following recommended safety and sanitizing guidelines.

The IHSA awaits approval of its Stage 2 guidelines from the Illinois Department of Health. A draft was originally sent to the IDPH for approval June 17.

While the athletic community awaits word, here's how officials in bordering states are approaching return to play.

Indiana

The Indiana High School Athletic Association has enacted a three-phase plan for the return of sports.

Phase 1 begins July 6 with voluntary conditioning in small groups with no contact. Athletes are limited to 15 hours of conditioning per week and individual conditioning sessions are limited to two hours. Locker rooms are closed.

Phase 2 allows contact in accordance with IHSAA guidelines. Athletes can lift free weights with a spotter. Locker rooms can be used at 50% capacity with social distancing in effect.

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Also during the second phase, girls golf teams can begin practice July 31 with contests scheduled to begin Aug. 3. All other sports can begin practice Aug. 3

Phase 3 is the Aug. 15 return to competition for all sports. Spectators will be allowed, according to IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox.

"As we talk, there aren't going to be any limitations in crowds at that point if we continue with the rollout we're at right now," Cox told Indianapolis television station WTHR-13 Wednesday

Cox has repeatedly stressed student-athlete safety is paramount and all phases are subject to evolving data from state and local health officials.

Indiana reported 501 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, marking the second straight day and fourth day in June it reported over 500 new cases. The positivity rate was 3.6%.

Iowa

The only state in the country that plays high school baseball and softball in the summer was the first state to resume high school sanctioned athletic competition.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

According to Maxpreps.com, 97 baseball and softball games took place Opening Day, June 15. Approximately 100 games have been played six days a week since.

Softball state tournaments in five classes are scheduled to begin July 13. The state tournament is July 27 to 31 in Fort Dodge.

Baseball state tournaments begin July 9. Eight teams in four classifications will compete for state titles July 24 to Aug. 1 in Des Moines.

The Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union allowed baseball and softball teams to begin practicing June 1 under mitigation guidelines created in consultation with the Iowa Department of Health.

According to the IHSAA's reopening guidance, in-person team organized activities for other sports remain suspended until July 1.

There were 1,500 COVID-19 cases reported between June 22 and 26, and the positivity rate averaged 6%, according to the Iowa COVID-19 dashboard.

Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association on June 18 released a 16-page document with guidelines for schools to resume activities with coaching contact.

The WIAA said athletic activities may begin July 1, but specific start dates are left up to each school's district administrator based on local level of risk. Schools have been asked to consult with state, local and tribal health departments to make such risk determinations.

The document categorizes "risk levels" for each sport -- high, moderate, low and lowest -- and risk levels for different areas based on guidance from local health officials.

If the area risk level is deemed high, WIAA guidance limits workouts to 10 athletes or fewer indoors or outdoors.

A moderate area risk level allows for gatherings of up to 50 people for outdoor workouts. Indoor workouts would remain limited to 10. Practices and competitions can resume for lower-risk sports such as golf, individual swimming and cross country with staggered starts.

If area risk level is deemed low, gatherings of up to 50 individuals will be allowed indoors and outdoors. Practices and competitions can begin for moderate-risk sports such as basketball, volleyball and soccer. High-risk sports like football, wrestling, competitive cheer and dance can begin modified practices.

Regular practices for high-risk sports cannot begin until local health officials declare an area has reached the lowest risk. No limits will be placed on gatherings at that point.

High school athletics may look very different from region to region. According to the WIAA guidance, "Not all areas of the state use the same criteria, and what is allowable during specific risk levels will vary from area to area. ... It is unlikely all students will be able to return to and sustain athletic activity in all schools/communities at the same time. Some areas will have higher COVID-19 rates that may not warrant full athletic participation, while another region has lower COVID-19 rates that allow full participation."

The WIAA on Saturday released specific protocol for football practices and games based on whether an area's local risk level is deemed high, moderate or low.

Players will not be required to wear masks; coaches are encouraged to wear masks but not mandated; the postgame handshake has been eliminated; if a quarterback touches his mouth, practice will be stopped and he must sanitize his hands; players should not share equipment; balls and other equipment must be sanitized after each practice; spectators will be allowed but must follow social distancing.

Wisconsin reported 520 new COVID-19 cases June 26. It was the state's highest total since May 31 and the fifth-highest total since the pandemic began. The positivity rate was 5.7%.

Missouri

The Missouri State High School Activities Association left the resumption of high school sanctioned workouts in the hands of local officials.

"Schools are allowed to do whatever their local health officials have put into place," MSHSAA Communications Director Jason West told KDSK TV.

Some football teams began summer training sessions as early as June 1, while others are not allowed to begin such workouts for another two weeks.

West said putting together a comprehensive plan for the entire state is problematic because ongoing events continually change plans before they can be implemented.

The MSHSAA intends to start the fall sports season as it normally does when the school year begins, West told KDSK.

In April, the MSHSAA voted to make the summer dead period optional in 2020. Relief was also granted on summer contact days.

Missouri's COVID-19 positivity rate was 5.5% for the seven-day period ending June 24, up from a low of 2.7% on May 22.

Kentucky

Athletes have been allowed to work out in socially distanced groups of 10 since June 15, when the state moved to Segment 2 of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association's return plan.

The annual summer dead period, scheduled for June 29 through July 9, was eliminated.

Kentucky is expected to move to Segment 3 on Monday, at which point all sports can resume conditioning with up to 50 athletes. Those 50 must be divided into groups of 10, each with a coach, according to guidelines provided by the KHSAA Board of Control.

"Low touch outdoor sports" like baseball, softball, track & field, golf, tennis and cross country can begin practice Monday. "High touch" fall sports like football, volleyball and soccer are not yet allowed to scrimmage or simulate gamelike conditions.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's office has not said when "high touch" sports like football can scrimmage or play games. Segment 4 is scheduled to begin July 10, but parameters have yet to be determined, according to the KHSAA.

Missouri's positivity rate fell this week to 3.9% after peaking at 9.6% on April 22.

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