Sport-specific coronavirus guidelines: What high schools need to know to compete safely

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that high school sports may compete this fall, and the Ohio High School Athletic Association released updated sport-specific guidelines and recommendations for schools holding inter-school competitions.

ExploreCoronavirus: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announces all sports approved for fall

These guidelines include updated rules from the National Federation of State High School Associations, which writes playing rules for high school sports in 51 member state associations, including Washington, D.C., according to the NFHS website.

Many of the game-specific recommendations are shared between sports, such as coaches wearing masks at all times, and directing athletes not to share equipment, towels or water bottles.

Some changes are geared toward promoting social distancing, while more sport-specific changes touch on a number of subjects like safety concerns.

Shared recommendations from the OHSAA and NFHS include:

  • Player rosters are limited to:
    • 60 players for football
    • 22 players for soccer
    • 22 players for field hockey
    • 15 players for volleyball
  • No sharing equipment, clothing, towels or water bottles
  • Cleaning and sanitizing frequently-touched surfaces and exercise equipment, including game balls
  • Coaches must wear face masks at all times
  • Sideline personnel are limited to participants, coaches, medical staff and game-day staff
  • Informing local health districts when events are scheduled and make a plan to handle anyone who fails a symptom assessment
  • Not playing if you have any symptoms of the virus, have been in contact with someone with the virus in the past 14 days
  • Limiting coin tosses to the referee, umpire and one designated representative from each team
  • No giving handshakes before or after the game
  • Limiting contests to teams in the local area or in counties contiguous to Ohio
  • Officials should not share whistles
  • Athletes and coaches should arrive in partial or full uniform so that they don’t dress or change in visiting locker rooms
  • Athletes are asked to refrain from removing mouthguards while on the field, and should sanitize their hands after handling it
  • When conducting temperatures checks, keep in mind weather factors may cause an elevated temperature

Guidelines specific to football from the OHSAA and NFHS include:

  • Marching and/or pep bands perform at home games only
  • The team box will now extend to the 10-yard lines for players only on both sides to promote distancing
  • The ball should be cleaned and disinfected throughout the contest
  • Ball holders should maintain social distancing at all times
  • Officials will have limited ball contact – the offensive team will handle the ball and take it with them to huddle, while the umpire places a bean bag at the spot where the ball will be snapped
  • Plastic shields covering the face aren’t allowed unless that are integrated into the face mask, attached to the helmet and clear, without any tint.
  • Charged time-outs and intermissions between periods can now extend to two minutes long
  • Halftime is recommended to be shortened to 10 minutes

Guidelines specific to cross country from the OHSAA and NFHS include:

  • Meets should use staggered, wave or interval starts to allow for social distancing
  • Organizers should consider widening courses to at least 6 feet at the narrowest point
  • Organizers should consider using finish corrals or FAT timing for larger events
  • Organizers should consider using image-based equipment at finish lines to assist with picking place to avoid congestion

Guidelines specific to golf from the OHSAA and NFHS include:

  • Follow host golf course rules as they apply to flagsticks, ball removal, bunker rates, bunker rules, etc.
  • Paper or electronic scorecards can be used, and no waiver is necessary for electronic scoring
  • Arrange practice range and greens schedules to maintain social distancing
  • Shotgun starts are permitted, so long as social distancing can be maintained
  • Players should avoid entering the clubhouse unless entry points and restrooms are stated
  • Limit the number of people on the range and greens to ensure spacing
  • Athletes should avoid contact with non-personal items like practice cups, range balls, etc., as much as possible
  • Athletes should avoid using benches, ball cleaners, restrooms and any other common areas or touchpoints
  • Scores should be confirmed verbally
  • After scores are posted teams should return to cars, busses or another open area
  • Organizers should not hold an awards ceremony

Guidelines specific to soccer from the OHSAA and NFHS include:

  • Benches should be provided on both sides of the field to allow greater distancing
  • Substitutions should occur closer to the center line to maintain social distancing

Guidelines specific to tennis from the OHSAA and NFHS include:

  • Athletes should use new balls and new grips, if possible
  • Athletes should avoid touching court gates, fences, benches, etc.
  • Athletes should use the racquet and/or foot to avoid touching the ball
  • While playing doubles, athletes should coordinate to maintain distancing

Guidelines specific to volleyball from the OHSAA and NFHS include:

  • The coin toss is suspended, and instead the visiting team will serve first in set one and alternate first serve for the remaining non-deciding sets – officials may use a coin toss if a disadvantage is present
  • Rosters should be submitted directly to the official’s table before the 10-minute mark
  • Teams should not switch benches and courts between sets, unless there is a clear and distinct disadvantage, when they may switch sides

Guidelines released by OHSAA and the NFHS for field hockey are all shared with other sports, and don’t include game-specific changes.

To read more, visit the OHSAA correspondence web page.

About the Author