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Idaho High School Activities Association releases fall sports guidance


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The Idaho High School Athletic Association recommends that athletes wear face-masks when possible this fall, but says plastic-face shields shouldn’t be allowed in competition.

Students should avoid fist-bumps and high-fives after competition.

And masked coaches should hold practice outside as often as possible.

These suggestions are among the guidance released by the IHSAA on Thursday, in a 52-page document that enables Idaho schools to resume activities this fall, but says that the “near certainty of recurrent outbreaks” means that some athletes might have to quarantine during their sports-seasons,” possibly multiple times.”

“It is not likely that ALL students will be able to return to and sustain athletic activity at the same time in all high schools and regions in  Idaho,” the IHSAA wrote in its guidance. If a school district closes because of COVID-19,  it says, “there should be no practice, training or competition among athletes in that school or district.”

Idaho health officials have said that allowing students to return to sports this fall significantly complicates school reopening plans.

Gina Pannell, program manager for Central District Health said in a State Board of Education meeting that student travel from district-to-district — and even within large districts — exacerbates student exposure risk.

“I don’t know how we’re going to keep schools in person if we intermingle school districts with sports,” she said. “We don’t want people shouting, let alone playing sports next to each other because of the risk of exposure.”

The IHSAA guidelines mandate that schools have to get approval from their local school boards, and public health officials before sports begin. The 52-page document lists these four requirements for schools, including:

  • Schools that host events are required to create a plan for fan’s and team’s attendance. These plans must follow the governor’s reopening protocols and be approved by the local  health department and local school board.
  • Schools must develop a plan for transportation.
  • Schools must have a plan for what to do if a coach or athlete tests positive, approved by the health department and school board.
  • They must also have a “return-to-participation” plan worked out with the school board and health department.

All other guidance in the document should be considered “a suggestion,” IHSAA wrote.


The guidelines list fall-sports according to risk category, and include a number of suggested measures for each.

High risk sports involve close-contact, a “lack of significant protective barriers,” and a significant chance that respiratory particles — which spread COVID-19 — will be transmitted between players. Those sports include:

  • wrestling
  • football
  • performance and competitive cheer
  • dance/drill that involves stunts.

Moderate-risk sports involve close-contact, but participants can reduce transmission by using protective equipment or limiting contact. Those include:

  • basketball
  • volleyball
  • baseball
  • softball
  • soccer
  • gymnastics
  • tennis
  • swimming relays
  • pole vault
  • high jump
  • long jump
  • bowling
  • 7-on-7  football.

Lower risk sports, which can be done with physical distancing, sanitizing equipment, or no equipment sharing at-all, include:

  • individual running events
  • individual swimming events
  • throwing events like javelin
  • golf
  • weightlifting
  • performance and competitive dance
  • cross-country running with a staggered start.

Suggestions for various sports include that coaches, officials and personnel wear face masks at all times (officials can use air-horns instead of whistles). Athletes should also have their own water-bottles, shower immediately after practices and practice social distancing on benches, sidelines and in locker rooms where possible.

The requirements in the document are all subject to change  depending on orders from the Governor’s Office, State Board of Education and IHSAA board of directors.

The fall season officially starts on August 10.

“Let’s all hope that everyone does their part to allow our student athletes the opportunity to participate,”  the document says.

Read the full  guidelines below: