A little less than two weeks until the start of a highly anticipated high school spring sports season, coaches and players now have a general idea of what sort of health restrictions will be in place.
The protocols, released by the UHSAA on Tuesday and designed to contest sports relatively safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, are pretty standard fare when compared to the fall and winter sports: wearing a mask at all times unless actively participating in the game, physical distancing in the team area, no handshakes, etc.
Biweekly COVID-19 testing for high school sports participants will continue until at least March 25, per an updated public health order issued Monday. It’s an extension of the Test to Play mandate that’s been in place throughout the winter sports season, requiring participants have a negative COVID test in order to participate.
For spring sports, the big question through the winter has been what to do about track and field, the spring sport with the largest number of participants and fans in one place.
For track and field, the guidelines advise teams to not bring student-athletes to competitions unless they’re competing (that’s a similar guideline in other sports, not just track) and using every other lane for running events that are conducted entirely in lanes (hurdles, sprints and relays).
Currently, NFHS rules prevent gloves from being worn in relay events, but states may permit gloves to be worn in relay events.
The guidelines don’t spell out anything specific for fan attendance or limiting the number of teams at a track and field event, which have been two huge concerns among coaches and administrators as the season approaches. In the soccer guidelines, fan attendance guidelines are spelled out as being at the discretion of school districts and local health departments.
There are some interesting guidelines in other sports. For baseball and softball, the protocols advise against chewing sunflower seeds, gum and spitting.
For soccer, the guidelines suggest limiting the number of players to 25 on the sideline. For lacrosse, that number is 30.
Currently, there are several state tournaments scheduled at Utah Valley University (6A, 4A and 3A baseball as well as the 6A/5A baseball finals) and two at BYU (state track and field, 5A baseball).
State tournament venues have changed in the fall and winter seasons, so that’s a distinct possibility that the spring tournaments could change, though such a decision wouldn’t happen for months and would depend on the COVID-19 situation.
A link to the full guidelines can be found online at uhsaa.org/news.