Football in the times of worldwide pandemic

Iowa High School Athletic association has instituted guidelines for COVID

Washington Demons bust through a banner to kick off the 2019 season. The football season in 2020 will look different in a number of ways because of the coronavirus. (File)
Washington Demons bust through a banner to kick off the 2019 season. The football season in 2020 will look different in a number of ways because of the coronavirus. (File)

Many states do not believe there should be a high school football season this fall because of the threat of COVID-19. Iowa is not one of them.

While there will be football, many measures have been implemented. The Iowa High School Athletic Association recently announced coronavirus guidelines high school football players and coaches are expected to follow this season.

The season officially begins today as teams are allowed to start practice with pads in Iowa.

Some of the rules players and coaches are expected to follow include maintaining social distancing on the sidelines, no spitting, mandatory timeouts during games, covering up bare skin, and players are only allowed to drink water. They can’t pour it on themselves.

Masks are optional, but encouraged.

These guidelines won’t be enforced by the IHSAA. School administrators are expected to uphold the rules.

“We don’t necessarily have penalties or consequences for the policies,” said IHSAA communications director Chris Cuellar. “They’re recommendations and guidance. Our job is just to provide a response and a little bit of outlining of information for what schools can do to improve their own mitigation steps.”

Iowa’s summer sports season is a blueprint for the fall sports season.

“Iowa playing baseball, I think really showed not only Iowa, but the country, that you can play sports in the middle of a pandemic,” Cuellar added.

If a player on a team tests positive for COVID-19, then the team isn’t allowed to play.

The canceled game will not count as a loss for the team, according to IHSAA officials.

A team could miss a number of games, but every team not in quarantine will be in the playoffs.

Coaches are responsible for ensuring social distancing is maintained between players as much as possible.

Recommendations include:

-Spacing between players while stretching and performing drills so that players remain six feet apart.

-Avoid close congregating of players while receiving coaching instruction.

The National federation of High Schools Sports Medicine Advisory Committee recommends that practices should be conducted in “pods” of students, with the same five-10 students always working out together. Coaches should keep a record of who is in each pod to facilitate contact-tracing if necessary.

-Schools should take steps to separate the different levels of their football programs into different areas so that potential contamination can be limited in case of a positive case. This includes use of locker rooms.

The IHSAA will be expanding the team box for the 2020 season to each team’s respective 10-yard lines, providing 30 additional yards for players and personnel to spread out. This adoption is for players only. Coaches are still mandated to be inside the 25-yard lines. Coaches may enter the expanded team box area for supervision purposes only.

Only essential personnel are permitted on the field of play. The field of play is defined as the area within the boundary lines and the goal lines.

Essential personnel are defined as players, coaches, athletic trainers, and officials. All others, including ball attendants, managers, video people, media photographers and statiticians are considered non-essential personnel and are to be on the sideline, maintaining social distance of six feet apart.

Coaches and officials are expected to follow the six feet social distancing when interacting with each other.

Depending on team size, schools should consider whether roster limits (including travel rosters) should be implemented to improve social distancing.

For the mock coin toss, there will be a referee, an umpire and one designated representative from each team. The coin toss should take place in the center of the field with designated individuals maintaining social distancing of six feet. There shoukld be no handshakes prior to and following the coin toss. For the overtime procedure, the same procedure will be used at the start of the contest for the coin toss.

Teams shall not exchange handshakes following the contest. Teams can acknowledge their opponent with other appropriate non-contact measures.

For the 2020 football season, scrimmages against other schools are still permitted. Intra-squad scrimmages are also permissible.

There are specific recommended practice and game protocols.

-Hand Sanitizing: This should be used as much as possible. The NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee recommends using hand sanitizer when going to and from the field. Players are encouraged to provide their own hand sanitizer and/or sanitizing wipes.

-Mandatory Timeouts: An officials’ timeout will be taken every four minutes of game clock time in order for teams to properly sanitize and hydrate during a game. This timeout is to be two minutes in length. In addition, the intermission between the first and second quarters and the third and fourth quarter should also be two minutes in length in order to allow for proper sanitizing and hydration.

-Masks: Masks are encouraged but not required to be worn by players, game officials, chain gangs, ball retrievers, statisticians, managers, athletic trainers and coaches. It is recommended that if worn, players and coaches wear a mask that is a solid color. There is no prohibition on the color of the mask.

-Shields: Plastic shields covering the entire face shall not be allowed during the contest unless they are clear and integrated into the face mask and attached to the helmet.

-Mouth Protector: It is recommended that players keep their tooth and mouth protector in their mouths at all times. Each time they touch their tooth and mouth protector, they should sanitize their hands.

Gloves: Unless made of unaltered plain cloth, gloves must have a permanent, exact replica of the NOCSAE glove seal or the SFIA glove seal. This seal must be visible and appear legibly on the exterior wrist opening of the glove. Non-athletic gloves, worn solely for the purpose of warmth, and made of unaltered plain cloth and which do not enhance the contact with the ball do not require a stamp indicating compliance.

-Skin Coverage: Players are encouraged to cover up as much of their bare skin as possible. Using long sleeved dry weave shirts and tights can cover bare skin.

-Spitting: Spitting is to be prohibited.

-Use of Water: Water is to be consumed only. Players should not rinse their mouth, their mouth piece, or pour water on their faces or necks.

-Game Balls: The ball should be cleaned and sanitized throughout the contest using sanitizing solutions recommended by the ball manufacturer. During games, it is recommended that each time there is a fourth down, a new football be brought into play. It is recommended that each team provide at least two reliable, knowledgeable ball attendants for each contest and that they maintain the appropriate social distancing guidelines throughout the contest.

-Facility Sanitizing: At the conclusion of each game, it is necessary to sanitize both the home and visiting team benches and any other areas that may have been used by either team. Spectator areas, locker rooms, training rooms, restrooms, concession stands and press box should also be cleaned and sanitized.