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IMPORTANT UPDATE: HS Sports may begin

Written by: on Wednesday, June 10th, 2020



COVID-19 Guidance for Sports 

Per PIAA Executive Director Bob Lombardi:

School athletic programs should be following the standard PIAA guidelines, as well as the below listed guidelines, as to what you are permitted to do with your team at this time of the year.

Pre-K to 12 School Sports

Pre-K to 12 (PK-12) school sports under the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) and the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association (PISAA) are permitted to resume in counties designated in the Yellow and Green phases, in alignment with the PDE Preliminary Guidance for Phased Reopening of Pre-K to 12 Schools and the CDC Considerations for Youth Sports.

The decision to resume sports-related activities, including conditioning, practices and games, is the discretion of a school entity’s governing body. Each school entity must develop and adopt an Athletics Health and Safety Plan aligning to the PDE Preliminary Guidance for Phased Reopening of Pre-K to 12 Schools prior to conducting sports-related activities with students. The plan must include the provisions of this guidance, be approved by the local governing body of the school entity, and be posted on the school entity’s publicly available website. The plan does not need to be submitted to DOH or PDE for approval.

Any sports-related activities in Yellow or Green phased counties must adhere to the gathering limitations set forth by the Governor’s Plan for Phased Reopening (25 in yellow, 250 in green) and the facility as a whole may not exceed 50% of total occupancy otherwise permitted by law. During the Yellow and Green phases of reopening, sports-related activities at the PK-12 level are limited to student athletes, coaches, officials, and staff only. The addition of visitors and spectators will be contingent upon future health conditions within the state and local communities.

This guidance is preliminary; as more public health information is available, the administration may work with impacted entities to release further guidance which could impact fall, winter, or spring seasons.

PSFCA Executive Director Garry Cathell would like “remind and urge all programs to ease into returning and follow at best the guidelines presented as to not endanger the integrity of the start up guidelines.  I commend the PIAA for all their hard work in getting sports back on track. “

To conduct games and practices, organizations and teams authorized to conduct in-person activities pursuant to this guidance must adhere to the following:

  • Coaches and league officials must review and consider the CDC guidance on consideration for youth sports to modify practices and games to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. This includes focusing on individual skill building versus competition and limiting contact in close contact sports.
  • The community, league, or team must designate a primary point of contact for all questions related to COVID-19, and all parents, athletes, officials, and coaches must be provided the person’s contact information.
  • The community, league, or team must develop a plan of action in the event an athlete, coach, or official falls ill, make the plan publicly available, and explain it to the entire sport community.
  • The community, league, or team must educate all athletes, staff and families about the symptoms of COVID-19 and when to stay home. Athletes also should be educated on proper hand washing and sanitizing.
  • Coaching staff and other adult personnel should wear face coverings (masks or face shields) at all times, unless doing so jeopardizes their health.
  • Coaches and athletes must maintain appropriate social distancing at all times possible, including in the field of play, locker rooms, sidelines, dugouts, benches, and workout areas. During down time, athletes and coaches should not congregate.
  • Coaches and athletic staff must screen and monitor athletes for symptoms prior to and during games and practices. If individuals participating in sporting activities show symptoms, have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, or are sick, they must be sent home.
  • All athletes, coaches, and officials must bring their own water and drinks to team activities. Team water coolers for sharing through disposable cups are not allowed. Fixed water fountains should not be used.
  • Activities that increase the risk of exposure to saliva must not be allowed including chewing gum, spitting, licking fingers, and eating sunflower seeds.
  • Avoid shaking hands, fist bumps, or high fives before, during or after games and practices. Limit unnecessary physical contact with teammates, other athletes, coaches, officials, and spectators.
  • Whenever possible, equipment and other personal items should be separated and not shared. If equipment must be shared, all equipment should be properly disinfected between users.
  • If multiple games are to be held at the same facility, adequate time shall be scheduled between contests to allow for facilities to be cleaned and disinfected, and to minimize interaction between athletes. Sports complexes with multiple fields may operate simultaneous games or practices  on fields within a complex only if social distancing can be maintained.  Each individual game or practice at a complex must adhere to the gathering occupancy limits (25 in yellow, 250 in green), and the facility as a whole may not exceed 50% of total occupancy otherwise permitted by law.
  • Concession stands or other food must adhere to the Guidance for Businesses in the Restaurant Industry.


To operate games or practice, organizations and teams that are otherwise permitted to conduct in-person activities pursuant to this guidance are encouraged to do the following:

  • In counties in the Yellow Phase of Reopening, indoor training or sports may only be conducted by organizations subject to supervision or regulation of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association or National Collegiate Athletic Associations, and only in accordance with guidance provided by those governing bodies. Start by limiting games, scrimmages, and matches to teams in your region first. Expand beyond regional play if cases continue to stay low.
  • Adult athletes are encouraged to wear face coverings when they are not engaged in a sporting activity, unless doing so jeopardizes their health.
  • Coaches should create a back-up staffing plan which should include cross-training staff and coaches and training all coaches and officials on safety protocols.
  • Limit cash transactions to the extent possible; find alternative ways to charge admission and pay for concessions.
  • Create protocols to limit entrance and exit traffic, designating specific entry to and exits from facilities. Establish protocols to ensure staggered pick up and drop off for practice and events and ensure that athletes are not congregating while awaiting pick up and to ensure congregation or crowding does not occur on drop off. Pickups and drop offs should remain outside. Parents should not enter the facility.

Guidance for Caregivers and Spectators

  • Seating areas, including bleachers, must adhere to social distancing requirements of at least 6 feet of spacing for anyone not in the same household. To assist with proper social distancing, areas should be clearly marked. Adults should wear face coverings (masks or face shields) at all times.
  • Caregivers or spectators should not enter the field of play or bench areas.
  • Nonessential visitors, spectators, and volunteers should be limited when possible, including activities with external groups or organizations. Parents should refrain from attending practices, or volunteering to assist with coaching.
  • Caregivers and coaches should assess levels of risk based on individual athletes on the team who may be at a higher risk for severe illness.
  • Caregivers should monitor their children for symptoms prior to any sporting event.  Children and athletes who are sick or showing symptoms must stay home.

Further Guidance and Support

In addition to this guidance, communities and organizations should also review the CDC’s Considerations for Youth Sports.

See answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) involving application of the business safety order.

Help is available for people who are struggling with their mental or emotional health or feeling anxious or overly stressed. Contact the Crisis Text Line by texting PA to 741-741.

The Administration recognizes the difficulty of procuring materials businesses need to safely resume operations. If assistance is needed to locate masks and other supplies to carry out these required safety procedures, please visit DCED’s Business2Business Interchange.



Schools are allowed to open with guidelines when districts are in the “Green Phase” according to Tom Wolf’s website. This was an important step forward for the return of high school sports.  The PIAA sports advisory committee will meet next week to form a rough guideline for districts to use. They are awaiting guidance from the Governors office before doing so and ask all schools to have just a bit of patience until they get answers to apply to guidance.  Athletic directors discussed plans to reopen today during zoom conference and they recommend each district adopts a reopening plan to suit their needs and safety.

A message from the PSFCA:

Just want to send a message of clarification about PIAA guidelines.

—This was from the press release from PIAA on May 21, 2020. Previously, the Board issued a statement following the Governor’s directive that no athletic activity could be hosted on school campuses until the end of the school year. With the Governor’s development of the red; yellow and green phases of opening counties across the Commonwealth, the Board is committed to permitting activities in those areas of the state that may be opened (green) under the Governor’s orders. If permitted, PIAA is no longer holding to a common date of July 1 for out of season activities.
—Reminder, at this time, Dr. Lombardi has not given schools or programs the ability to begin workouts of any kind, even if they are in the green phase.
—As of today, July 1, 2020 is still the start date. No athletic programs (including football) within the PIAA should be hosting any kind formal or informal meetings, practices, open gyms, weight room sessions, etc. until the information comes directly from PIAA or Dr. Lombardi. PIAA also discourages player-lead (captains) workouts of any kind.
—Any new information from the PIAA office or Dr. Lombardi will be immediately sent to all coaches.
Coaches please be patient and follow all of the guidelines.  Everyone is working hard for this fall football season to happen.  Do not put yourself or your school district in any unnecessary positions by practicing or working out side of the PIAA rules.


Last Wednesday during the PIAA Board of Directors meeting, the board voted to allow districts to resume their sports programs once the county in which they reside is moved to Governor Wolfs planned “green phase” of the Covid 19 recovery phase. ( Since then, some confusion has arisen as to when schools would be allowed to restart their programs. When the Department of Education announced all districts are closed for the rest of the school year, a statement was released by PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi that July 1 would be the beginning of the new school year for sports, meaning that, according to the PIAA, no teams could practice until the official end of the school year, June 30. According to Lombardi, that means no teams — including those in fall and winter sports — can have workouts or informal practices before July 1.

On Thursday, May 22, the Department of Health released their guidelines for Summer Recreation, Camps and Pools. (see link > Frequently asked questions) Those guidelines addressed the question “Are organized team sports permitted during the Governor’s phased reopening plan?”  The answer was : “Organized sports are only permitted in counties in the green phase of the Governor’s phased reopening plan. Organized team sports and events are defined as physical activity directed by adult or youth leaders that involves rules and formal practice and competition. This includes school and club sports as well as youth and adult formal activities. Physical activity conducted as part of summer programming is allowed. Activities and games with little or no physical contact are recommended.

That last sentence, we need guidance and that’s why we (PIAA) reached out to the Governors office for clarification” said Lombardi. “So using that example, their recommendation is probably no when it comes to basketball and football. We are still awaiting a response.” As for the guidelines above, they DO also include such organizations as Little League and YMCA type sports, which added to the confusion.

That same day Governor Wolf moved several counties into his green phase beginning May 29 and this is where the confusion came in. The question has now become “who will release the districts from the restrictions since the districts were mandated to be closed by the state Dept of Ed. ” The most common question we are asked is “who is going to allow us to start our programs? With districts closed, we aren’t allowed access to our facilities.”  According to Lombardi, “there are a lot of moving pieces that have to come together”. First the Department of Education has to release those districts from the June 30 restriction date.  At that point, Lomboardi says “it would then be up to each district as to how to proceed because, per the meeting last week, once the district is allowed to reopen they could then restart their programs IF they so choose to do so.”

Another conundrum that has arisen is what to do in the case of a school district that is divided by more than one county.  This Friday, a portion of the Danville district will reside in the “green” county of Montour while another portion will remain in the “yellow” phase, Northumberland County. Most of the facilities are in Montour county but, in Berwick, the high school is in Luzerne county while the football facilities are in Columbia County. District 10’s Wilmington is the same way, part in Mercer and part in Lawrence but what’s even more confusing is the line crosses in the middle of the schools campus. Then you have a situation like the Hazleton district which resides in THREE counties. Once again, Lombardi says “it would be up to the individual district to decide how to proceed. I would imagine that the Department of Education would have to provide guidance for thme for that type of situation”.

As soon as the PIAA has received clarification from the Department of Education and the governors office, PAFootballNews will update you.

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