Next phase approved for IHSA’s Return to Play

BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois Department of Public health has approved the IHSA’s next phase in its Return to Play Plan, with schools being able to implement the guidelines starting Sunday. The IHSA announced it has renamed its phases in the Return to Play Plan to correlate with the Governor’s Restore Illinois Plan. This latest phase released will be “Phase 4” with the guidelines released in early June now known as “Phase 3”.

With school district approval, IHSA coaches will be able to conduct 20 summer contact days from July 5-August 9, as long as their region remains in Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan. This phase will allow teams to gather in groups of 50 coaches and students or less to conduct practices or contests. The IHSA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee developed a draft that was approved by the IHSA’s Board of Directors on June 15 and submitted to the IDPH for approval. The IHSA also sent the draft to schools to allow them to make preparations for the next phase. 18 days later, the IDPH approved the guidelines with some tweaks.

“Safety remains at the forefront of everything that the IHSA is doing as we move into Phase 4 and beyond,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “We appreciate the collaborative efforts of the SMAC and IDPH in recognizing the physical, mental, and emotional benefits for our student-athletes and coaches as they progress into training in a more traditional practice setting. Our focus now shifts to continuing to work with state leadership to determine how to provide the safest environment possible for fall sports.”

In addition to changing the phase names, here are some of the changes in the IDPH approved Phase 4 guidelines:
*Multiple groups of 50 are allowed when outdoors with 30 feet of space between the groups. The indoor limit is 50 no matter the spacing.
*Coaches and volunteers must wear masks
*Officials must wear a mask except when actively exercising as part of their officiating duties and use an electronic whistle. Mouth whistles and blow horns are not allowed.
*Participants should be encouraged to wear a mask if feasible for the sport.
*If schools allow spectators, there must be a special area designated with existing seating capped at 20% of capacity, allowing for 6 feet of distance between family/household units.

To see the entire Phase 4 guidelines, click here.

There is no word yet how (or if) the next phase of the IHSA’s Return to Play Plan will be linked to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan, which likely would require a vaccine or treatment.