illinois coronavirus

IDPH Issues New Guidance for Youth, Recreational Sports. Here's Everything You Need

The guidance expands the level of play allowed for all sports in regions under Phase 4 guidelines

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As Illinois regions continue loosening restrictions, the state has released new guidance for youth and recreational sports.

With the entire state now out of Tier 3 mitigations Friday, the state's health department released guidelines for various sports, including those in schools, travel clubs, private leagues and clubs, recreational leagues and centers, and park district sports programs. 

"Over the past seven months I've received countless emails, letters, phone calls from students from parents from coaches, many others about youth sports in organized protests about the issue. I hear and see, and I feel the passion around youth sports. I take very seriously the value that recreational outlets offers the physical and the mental health of our children," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said during a press conference Friday. "I also take very seriously, the need to protect them as do their parents and their coaches and the broader community, and we will talk about that now. The updated sports guidance that we are releasing today outlines the level of play allowed dictated by the current public health conditions that we find ourselves in. We have to think about the amount of virus circulating in the communities. We have to continue to think about the test positivity, the people in the ICU with COVID and as well as other metrics."

The guidance expands the level of play allowed for all sports in regions under Phase 4 guidelines, including play for intra-conference, region, or league levels.

Several regions in the state are already under Phase 4 restrictions, but much of the Chicago area remains in Tiers 1 and 2.

Under the guidelines, sports are given a risk category and a level based on which tier or phase their region is in.

SPORTS RISKPhase 4TIER 1TIER 2TIER 3
Lower-RiskLevel 4Level 4Level 3Pause all indoor sporting activities, including youth and adult recreational sports.
Outdoor sporting activities may continue at Level 1.
Medium-RiskLevel 4 for sports played outdoors
Level 3 for sports played indoors
Level 3Level 2
Higher-RiskLevel 3Level 2Level 1

Here are the latest rankings from the state for high-risk to low-risk sports:

Higher Risk:

  • Basketball
  • Boxing
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Martial Arts
  • Rugby
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Wrestling

Moderate Risk:

  • Flag Football or 7v7 Football
  • Futsal
  • Paintball
  • Racquetball
  • Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Water Polo
  • Wheelchair Basketball

Lower Risk:

  • Archery
  • Badminton
  • Baseball
  • Bass Fishing
  • Bowling
  • Climbing
  • Competitive Cheer
  • Competitive Dance
  • Crew
  • Cross Country
  • Cycling
  • Disc Golf
  • Fencing
  • Gymnastics
  • Horseback Riding
  • Ice Skating
  • Ropes Courses
  • Sailing, Canoeing, Kayaking
  • Scholastic Golf
  • Sideline Spirit
  • Skateboarding
  • Softball
  • Skiing
  • Swimming/Diving
  • Tennis
  • Track and Field
  • Weight Lifting

And here is what is allowed in each level:

Level 1No-contact practices, and trainings only
Level 2Intra-team scrimmages allowed, with parental consent for minors; no competitive play
Level 3Intra-conference or Intra-EMS-region or intra-league play/meets only; state- or league-championship game/meet allowed for low-risk sports only
Level 4Tournaments, out-of-conference/league play, out-of-state play allowed; championship games allowed

The new rules exclude recreational golf and bowling, which fall under a different set of guidelines.

"As has been the case throughout the pandemic, we can't change the fact that there are different sports and they have different levels of risk. Sports like basketball or football or wrestling pose a higher risk, compared to those, such as track and field or baseball or gymnastics," Ezike said. "So we have to make adjustments to best balance the ability to play and the need to stay safe, depending on the conditions in the community. And so that's where everyone comes in, to continue, as the governor has implored, continue with the masking and the safe choices that will allow these numbers to continue in the downward right direction."

In addition to wearing masks throughout play, the state also released the following restrictions for certain sports:

BaseballMaintain at least 6-feet apart in dugout areas or if players are seated in bleachers behind dugout
Bass FishingLimit number of individuals on boat to allow for social distancing
BowlingClean and sanitize equipment, including bowling balls, before and after each game; do not share equipment between players; limit bowlers per lane to maintain at least 6 feet social distance throughout play
Competitive CheerMinimize contact between participants by maintaining at least 6 feet of distancing on the floor during routines, including when changing formations, and by prohibiting lifts, stunts, pyramids, and tosses as well as shared equipment (e.g., signs, flags, poms)
Competitive DanceMinimize contact between dancers by maintaining at least 6 feet of distance (i.e., spacing) on the floor during routines, including when changing formations, and by prohibiting lifts and stunts and shared equipment (e.g., poms); Avoid shouting, singing, and chanting
Cross CountyLimit the number of teams and follow physical workspace guidelines
CyclingPlay individually or use only every other track in velodrome
GymnasticsClean equipment between participants and limit sharing of personal equipment or materials (e.g., chalk); all non-participant personnel (e.g., spotters) should wear masks at all times.
Ice SkatingPlay individually or have one exclusive skating partner
Ropes CoursesMaintain at least 6 feet of socially distance and clean equipment between each individual
SailingLimit number on boat to socially distance
Sideline spiritMaintain at least 6 feet of social distance on the floor during routines, including when changing formations, and by prohibiting lifts, stunts, pyramids, and tosses as well as shared equipment (e.g., signs, flags, poms); avoid shouting, singing, and chanting
SoftballMaintain at least 6-feet apart in dugout areas or when players are seated in bleachers behind dugout
Swimming/DivingRestrict play to a single lane; no synchronized swimming
TennisMinimize touching of shared objects
Track and FieldApply delayed starts, use every other track, and clean equipment between usage; modify relays and team races to minimize contact between players, including by not sharing equipment (e.g., batons)
VolleyballMaintain distance of at least 6 feet between players on each side of net and on the bench
Weight LiftingClean between each individual

For additional restrictions and guidance, click here.

Last week, the Illinois High School Association said its board was working to determine a day in which lower-risk sports can begin competing within their geographic regions. The IHSA added that spring and summer sports for schools under Tier 2 mitigations may begin to conduct "contact days" on Jan. 25.

“The most significant update today involves high-risk sports in regions that have improved from Tier 1 to Phase 4," IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson siad in a statement. "Schools within a Phase 4 Region can now conduct intra-conference and intra-region contests in high-risk sports. Moderate-risk sports competing outdoors in Phase 4 also received expanded scheduling opportunities, including tournaments and out-of-state contests."

The IHSA Board of Directors are scheduled to meet again on Jan. 27 where they will likely select a date when lower-risk sports can begin competing.

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