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11/14/20 blog post

COVID-19 guidance for winter sports

The pandemic has had a major impact on sports. Everyone from coaches to participants to spectators have had to adapt their seasons as we continue to live with COVID-19. Back in July, the Executive Director’s Office of OSHAA heard from administrators, coaches, participants and parents who all backed Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted’s social media campaign, #IWantASeason. As fall sports were allowed to resume, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) sent “observers” to a combined 95 football, boys soccer, girls soccer and volleyball contests.

They observed some areas that need improvement in order to keep everyone safe. Schools and sports leagues are reminded of the following:

  • Players not in the contest ARE REQUIRED to wear facial coverings on the sidelines.
  • Players not in the contest and on the sidelines ARE REQUIRED to be socially distanced (as close to six feet apart as possible).
  • Outside of game play, players are NOT PERMITTED to have physical contact, such as high-fives and handshakes, with their teammates. Coaches and other team personnel are also not permitted to have physical contact with players.
  • Spectators ARE REQUIRED to wear facial coverings.

winter is coming

As cooler temperatures arrive, cases of COVID-19 have spiked and show no sign of slowing down. In response, OHSAA issued the following update to school administrators regarding winter sports. It’s intended to guide local health departments, municipalities and league organizers to assess the risk of contracting COVID-19 during the winter sports season. The update includes links to sport-specific requirements, recommendations and modifications for winter sports, such as:


• Basketball

• Bowling: to come

• Gymnastics

• Ice Hockey

• Swimming & Diving

• Wrestling



So, what can you do to help combat the spread of coronavirus this winter sports season?

Recommended strategies, include:

  • Requiring the use of face-covering masks that completely cover the nose and mouth by all coaches and players (including during active play).
  • Keeping individuals in small groups
  • Increasing and maintaining distance between participants
  • Implementing rule changes that reduce the number, frequency, duration, and/or exertional level of person-to-person physical contact
  • Limiting/eliminating interactions with individuals outside of your household


additional winter sports guidance

Along with OHSSA, the Ohio Department of Health has also issued guidance on various winter or indoor sports concerns.

First, participants, which includes athletes waiting to play and athletes completing play, as well as, cheerleaders, pep band members, do not count toward a sports venue’s allowable number of spectators under Ohio’s Sports Order or any variance that has been approved for your facility.

However, school administrators are cautioned to use good judgment in this area. If, for example, auxiliary areas are available for athletes waiting to play or having completed play, including cheerleaders, pep band members, etc., consider placing these students in that area. No matter where these students are placed, six-feet social distancing mandates must be followed and facial coverings are required.

Consideration should also be given to sending freshman, junior varsity and/or varsity teams on separate transportation to away contests and having those groups leave immediately after their specific contests are completed.

Cheerleaders and pep band members are considered to be participants in the sports event and consequently subject to the Sports Order and guidance. Administrators should take caution on where they place cheerleaders. For instance, consider having them cheer as far away from players and contest officials on the court as possible and potentially in bleacher areas if room is available.

Cheerleaders and pep band members must wear facial coverings when not performing and must maintain six-feet social distancing.

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Lora Scott, MD

division chief sports medicine
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