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Highlights from PIAA return guidelines

The PIAA Board of Directors on Wednesday approved its ‘Return to Competition’ guidelines for all fall sports.

The state’s governing sports body, using current Pa. Dept. of Health and CDC guidelines, as well as recommendations from multiple in-house committees, issued its sport-specific considerations in a 25-page document.

“Based on currently known information, the PIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee believes that STRICT ADHERENCE by schools and teams to their school-adopted plans and the Governor’s School Sports Guidance should provide a reasonably safe environment for student-athletes to participate in interscholastic athletics as currently scheduled,” states the PIAA in the Return to Competition guidelines.

Below are the most notable takeaways from the guidelines:

• Along with daily health assessments, hand washing/sanitization requirements and social distancing, the ‘general considerations’ call for all coaches, athletes and spectators (if permitted) to wear face coverings unless maintaining consistent six feet separation. Athletes are not required to wear face coverings while actively engaged in workouts and competition.

• Consider conducting workouts in “pods” of same students always training and rotating together in practice to ensure more limited exposure if someone develops an infection.

• Coaches should limit game day squad sizes for social distancing purposes.

• At this time spectators for K-12 events are not allowed. The Preliminary School Sports Guidance document which was released by the Governor’s Office states that, “The addition of visitors and spectators will be contingent upon future health conditions within the state and local communities.” The PIAA states that it expects additional information from the Governor’s Office and Department of Education on the subject.

Cross Country

• Schools are encouraged to limit team participants to 12 or fewer for meets involving four or fewer teams.

• Staggered, wave or interval starts are encouraged, and schools should look at widening courses by 6 feet at the narrowest points.

Field hockey

• The PIAA encourages more bench space, no handshakes, ball individuals using gloves or extra balls placed around the field of play, and a designated space for players who are carded that is socially distant from the officials table. Pregame introduction lines are discouraged.

• Face coverings, gloves and goggles are allowed, but players should not share masks for penalty corners.


• The team box on each sideline can be extended to both 10-yard lines for increased social distancing, and teams should reduce game rosters as much as possible.

• The PIAA recommends teams promote the use of clear plastic face shields on helmets. Cloth face masks are also permitted.

• Encourage fewer offensive and defensive huddles and encourage coaching staffs to utilize other methods of communication with players (such as signals, cards, signs) to minimize grouping.


• Normal golf group sizes are permitted, but social distancing must be maintained. It is also recommended the number of golfers in a match be limited, start times be staggered at least 12 minutes for groups of three and 15 minutes for groups of four, and everyone tees off from the same starting hole.


• As with football and field hockey, any ball boys or girls should be socially distanced and wear gloves.

• Teams bench areas may be expanded to increase social distancing.

• There is to be no introduction line prior to games, and players should head immediately to their starting positions on the field. Any halftime, pre-game and post-game team meetings should be conducted off the field, and there are to be no post-game handshakes.


• The PIAA encourages using 4-6 balls per match with player/team-specific sets, returning the ball to the opponent with use of the racquet or foot.


• Teams are not to switch sides between sets, and bench areas can be expanded for social distancing purposes. Substitutions are encouraged close to the attack line, with 6 feet of distance between players and the official.

Water polo

• Team benches should be placed on opposite sides of the pool. For social distancing, substitute players can be in the water behind the goal line if there is space, and coaches can be behind the goal line in the team area when the team is on defense.

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