REGIONAL—Once Gov. Kim Reynolds gave the go-ahead, it did not take long for the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union to sanction the start of baseball and softball season.
Reynolds made the announcement this morning (Wednesday, May 20) during an update on the coronavirus pandemic. She gave Iowa’s unified activities partners permission to lift what had been a two-and-one-half month suspension of high school athletic activities.
Just a few hours later, the organizations had hammered out a plan to sanction the start of summer sports on June 1. The Iowa Department of Education also had a hand in the ruling, which allows games to begin on Monday, June 15.
Fans will be permitted at games.
Track and field practices started in late February and other spring sports were just getting ready to open workouts when Reynolds closed Iowa schools and suspended all activities on Sunday, March 15. After having the suspension extended a couple of times, spring sports were ultimately canceled on April 17.
The first practice date for softball was supposed to be on May 4, with the first practice date for baseball scheduled for May 18. Those seasons still are under suspension until June 1.
The Iowa Department of Education released a detailed list of guidelines for member schools to follow with input on that list coming from the IGHSAU, the IHSAA, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the governor’s office and Dr. Ann Lebo, who is the executive director of the Iowa Department of Education and a member of the IHSAA Board of Control.
“The guidelines laid out by the Department of Education and the Department of Public Health will enable us to safely move forward with a softball season this summer,” said IGHSAU executive director Jean Berger. “We are grateful for their leadership and support.
“We know the games will have different circumstances and that we will all have to work together to keep everyone safe, but we are confident that we are up to this challenge.”
Among the regulations for the start of practice are: No one can attend or participate in practice if they have symptoms or have been in contact with anyone with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the last 14 days; no dugouts can be used — players’ items should be placed near a fence and at least six feet apart; parents must remain in their cars to drop off and pick up players; players should use their own equipment as much as possible, coaches are responsible for ensuring social distancing during drills, players must bring their own beverages to consume during practice, coaches and players must do a temperature check before practice and coaches must sanitize all items used before and after each practice; coaches must ban spitting of sunflower seed shells and players are encouraged to bring their own hand sanitizer.
The rules for players and coaches during games are similar.
For fans, they may not attend if they have symptoms of illness. Schools must limit the usage of bleachers for fans. Fans are encouraged to bring their own chairs or to stand. Fans must practice social distancing between different household units. No concession stands are permitted.
The organizations each plan to conduct their respective state tournaments at the scheduled sites — Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge for softball and Principal Park in Des Moines for baseball.
The IGHSAU and IHSAA plan to issue further sport-specific guidance and FAQ lists by early next week.
It also was announced that all in-person, coach-athlete contact in out-of-season sports will remain suspended until July 1.