Published in the August 31, 2020 edition.

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association recently announced modifications for each fall sport to follow this season. 

Each sport’s modification guideline begins with general guidelines to be followed by all sports. 

Pre-contest screening: Athletes and coaches may not attend practices or games if they are isolated for illness or quarantined for exposure to infection. Athletes and coaches who have symptoms of COVID-19 should follow DPH guidance regarding isolation and testing. Those diagnosed with the virus may return to school once they have been afebrile for 24 hours and with improvement in respiratory symptoms and once 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared. Written clearance from a health care provider will also be required in order to return to sport.

Those exposed to COVID should not participate in practices or games until their 14-day quarantine is completed.

Social Distancing: Coaches are responsible for ensuring social distancing is maintained between players as much as possible at practice and games. Workouts should be conducted in ‘pods’ of athletes with the same 5-10 always working out together. This ensures more limited exposure is someone develops an infection. 

Locker rooms may be used but should be limited to 50 percent capacity. Staggered use of locker rooms based on time and distance is recommended. When possible, students should report to practice and games in proper gear and immediate return home afterwards.

Social distancing must be maintained when the coach is communicating with the entire team. 

Athletes will not exchange handshakes before during or following practices and competitions. 

Spectators must practice social distancing between different household units and accept personal responsibility for public health guidelines.

Practice/game protocols: Athletes of all sports are required to wear cloth face coverings/masks per EEA guidelines. During play when spacing between players is great than 10 ft athletes may momentarily take brief face covering relief. The default expectation is that the mask will be on. Athletes should reference sport specific guidelines for mask breaks. A medical note is required for individuals who are unable to wear a face covering due to a medical condition or disability. 

It is the responsibility of the head coach to monitor and ensure that all players not on the playing field are wearing face coverings. Coaches and officials are also required to wear face coverings. 

Coaches should work to break old habits to minimize the spread of the virus. Spitting, nose clearing on the field, licking fingers and spitting on gloves during practices and competitions is not permitted. 

Coaches and athletes must follow social distancing guidelines of six feet when interacting with an official or any other individual.

Equipment: There should be no shared athletic equipment. Any equipment used for practice should be disinfected prior to and immediately following practice. Students must bring their own water bottles and gym bags.

Specific sport highlights: 

Full modifications for each fall sport with reactions from coaches will appear at a later date. Here are some highlights:

Soccer: It is a violation to intentionally head the ball and place your hands on any part of an opposing team members’ body. It is also a violation to intentionally make body contact. This includes shoulder-to-shoulder tackling. Unintentional contact is allowed if the player is attempting to make foot to ball contact. Slide tackles are not allowed. Violations will result in an indirect free kick for the opposing team.

All indirect kicks (including corner kicks) must be played on the ground except for goal kicks, which can’t go in the air beyond the midfield line. There will be no throw-ins. The restart will be a kick-in. The goalkeeper can’t kick or punt the ball in the air beyond the midfield line. A traditional defensive “wall” is not allowed on any restart. 

Field Hockey: Number of players on the field is now 7 v 7 (must have goalie). No penalty corners. Fouls in circle will be 25 yd. hits. All players must be five yards away on free hits. No bully’s, it will be alternating possession. 

Cross Country: Dual meets should be held at one available course per league. This would provide a universal course for athletes to compete on and could also evolve into virtual score of a league meet. An emphasis should be placed on a wider course that allows for social distancing and spacing throughout the meet. Competitions should be dual meets only until further guidelines are given. 

Staggered starts in smaller groups are required; possibly waves of 8-10 athletes. Runners are to be spaced out six feet apart and schools are to be separated by 14 feet. A minimum of three minute spacing should be allotted between each wave. Runners should maintain social distancing throughout and not cluster. 

Golf: Upon arrival at the course, face coverings must be worn and social distancing of six feet must be practiced in all common areas including the driving range and practice greens. Removal of face coverings is permitted during competition but must be returned to the face anytime players need to be within six feet of each other. Single tee starts should be staggered at a minimum of 10 minutes between groups. Social distancing must be maintained throughout the round. 

Volleyball: Teams will remain on the same side of the court throughout the match. Team members should be seated or standing six feet apart. There are to be no team huddles or any physical contact (high five, fist bumps). Balls are to be replaced with a clean ball after every rally. To reduce intermittent contact with opponents, front row plays will be restricted from traditionally attacking the ball while the ball is above or in front of the 3-foot line. Line judges will not be used. 

Swimming: Teams will sit on opposite sides of the pool whenever possible and remain there throughout meet. To streamline the meet, diving will be the first event. 

Athletes and team personnel must wear face coverings, say six feet apart and remain on their respective side of the pool during races. Group cheering will not be permitted. 

Relay swimmers will be spaced 3-6 feet apart behind their respective lanes and wearing face coverings. The next swimmer to enter the pool can unmask after previous swimmer enters pool and must maintain six feet from the next relay participant.