Fall 2020 Return to Competition: General Guidelines

This should be considered as recommendations from IGHSAU/IHSAA for its member schools and should not supersede guidelines, mandates, requirements, and/or orders put into place by the

  • Iowa Governor’s Office
  • Iowa Department of Public Health
  • Iowa Department of Education
  • Federal, local or county government entities
  • Federal, local or county health departments
  • Local School Districts


  • It is the responsibility of the home team to provide proper administrative supervision (not the coach) at contests to assure compliance with the guidelines set forth by the Governor’s office, the Department of Education, the Department of Public Health, the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.

Return to Learn & Competition

  • All schools, regardless of district/school Return to Learn plans, will be eligible to participate in IHSAA and IGHSAU sports programs. The decision regarding whether or not to allow teams to participate rests solely with local school districts.
  • Schools deciding to not participate in a sport should send written notice from its Superintendent or designated school official to IHSAA Executive Director Tom Keating/IGHSAU Executive Director Jean Berger by August 17th.

Eligibility for Students in Districts That Do Not Offer One or More Fall Sports

Two options exist:

  • The District not offering the sport may develop a cooperative sharing agreement with a district that does offer the sport. This may jeopardize the host school’s post-season eligibility if the combined enrollment moves the host school to the next enrollment class.  As per 36.15(4)(b)
  • Students in a district not offering the sport may open enroll to another district and would be immediately eligible to participate in that sport. In such a situation, students who open enroll would be ineligible for varsity competition in all sports which their home district offers.  As per 36.15(4)(a)

Academic Eligibility

  • All students are eligible for fall sports.  Regardless of the Return to Learn plan implemented, all students must be enrolled in at least four courses to be eligible.

Pre-Participation Physicals

  • As per the amendment issued by Governor Reynolds on June 25, all physicals signed on or after July 1, 2019 are good through December of 2020.
  • Schools should use the previous PPE form for the 2020-2021 school year. The revised PPE form has not been approved for distribution.

Return to Learn and Concussion Protocol

  • The Department of Education, Iowa Department of Health and IATS will clarify how Return to Play (RTP) protocols relate to each of the three Return to Learn options schools may implement.  The general guideline is that a day of school is a day of school, regardless of how instruction is delivered.


  • Guidelines will reflect school transportation guidelines which will come from the Department of Education.

Possible/Positive COVID-19 Cases

  • The Iowa Department of Public Health is developing guidance for county health departments and schools regarding protocols when a student and/or student-athlete reports COVID-19 symptoms, a positive COVID-19 test result or contact with a person with a positive COVID-19 test result.
  • Each school should identify a point of contact for athletes, coaches, and other personnel to report to when he/she experiences COVID-19 symptoms, a positive COVID-19 test result or contact with a person with a positive COVID-19 test result. This identified person will be responsible to report such situations to local public health.
  • Each school should develop a communication plan to notify relevant persons (players, coaches, spectators) when contact-tracing indicates the need to.

Health Screening

  • Schools should implement health screening for practices and games similar to methods used during baseball and softball seasons. Self-screening and reporting to the school representative (AD/Coach/Trainer, etc.) is permissible.
  • Any individual reporting symptoms and/or a temperature of 100.4F or higher should be isolated until they can safely transport home.

Social Distancing

  • The overarching safety principal in all areas of athletic activities (meetings, practices, travel, instruction, drills, benches, spectators, locker rooms, training rooms, concessions, restrooms, etc.) is that individuals should maintain 6 feet of social distancing. 

Hand Sanitizing

  • Student-athletes should be encouraged to frequently sanitize their hands before, during and after practice and competition. Non-touch hand sanitizers may be used.  Student-athletes should have their own personal hand sanitizer. Individuals should especially sanitize before touching “common” equipment or other items.

Equipment Sanitizing

  • Any equipment that is shared by student-athletes should be sanitized before and after practice as well as before and after competition.


  • Individuals should never share towels.  Each individual should bring or be issued his/her own clean towel at the beginning of practice or competition. Towels should be laundered after each practice and game.

Locker Rooms

  • Locker rooms may be used and should be sanitized every day and after use by each and every group. Schools should coordinate with their maintenance departments regarding sanitizing.
  • All school-issued and personal clothing, equipment and other items should be taken home following practices and/or contests. Locker rooms should not be used as a storage area for clothing and/or equipment.
  • Players, coaches and others using locker rooms should maintain 6 feet of social distancing. This may require a rotating schedule for use of locker rooms to avoid congestion.  A record of individuals in each rotation should be kept to facilitate contact-tracing if necessary. 
  • Players, coaches and others using locker rooms are strongly encouraged to wear masks while in the locker room.
  • Visitor locker room should be identified and should be sanitized prior to arrival of team and after departure of team.


  • Each individual student-athlete should have their own water container.
  • If a hydration station (e.g. cooler) is provided, individuals must sanitize their hands prior to using the hydration station. An alternative practice is to assign one person to fill water bottles and that person should wear a mask and protective gloves.
  • Host schools may provide a water source for visitors but visitors should bring their own hydration station (cooler).


  • Schools should implement spectator protocols by following CDC and local department of health guidelines regarding size of gatherings and social distancing.
  • Spectators should use 6 feet social distancing. Families may sit/stand together but should social distance from others.  Frequent reminders should be made via public address.
  • Just as businesses may require customers to wear masks, schools may require spectators to wear masks.

Press Box/Scorer's Bench

These areas should be limited to:

  • Essential personnel - Scorekeeper, scoreboard operator, announcer
  • Home and Visitor Coaching staffs (football)
  • Media (as per guidelines below)

Individuals in the press box and/or at scorer’s table should practice 6 feet social distancing.


  • Schools should communicate with media regarding protocols for practices and games. It is recommended that:
    • Space be provided for media game coverage that takes into consideration:
      • 6 feet of social distancing
      • Priority given to: 1) home team coverage; 2) visiting team coverage; 3) other coverage
    • Procedure be established regarding interview requests prior to/after practices and games, including
      • Identifying an area where interviews will be conducted.
      • Establishing a required advanced notice timeframe.

Concession Stands

  • The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals provided the following guidance on school concession stands, with the latest update on July 24.
  • If concession stands are open, patrons should practice 6 feet of social distancing.

Training Rooms

  • All individuals utilizing the training room should wear a face mask at all times.
  • Host site athletic training room should not be available for visiting team pregame and postgame treatments.
  • If a team travels without an athletic trainer, all pregame taping, bracing, etc., should be completed before departure to the game. Host site athletic trainer should be contacted prior to the trip to plan for any requested accommodations.
  • All taping/exam tables should be disinfected before and after each use.
  • All taping/exam tables should be distanced at least 6 feet apart.
  • Cold and hot tubs should only be used by one individual at a time.
  • Cold and hot tubs should be drained, cleaned and disinfected between individual use and at the beginning and end of every day.

Participation Levels

  • This guidance is intended for high school varsity, sub-varsity and junior high school activities as overseen by the IGHSAU.
  • Sub-varsity and junior high sports are approved to resume IGHSAU activities in the 2020-21 school year.