Slow Down, Kids at Play? Illinois Limits Youth and Adult Sports

Slow Down, Kids at Play? Illinois Limits Youth and Adult Sports

Jul 30, 2020

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Written by Matthew M. Swift

On Wednesday the Governor’s Office released detailed restrictions and guidance for youth and adult sports that it developed in coordination with the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH), the Illinois State Board of Education, and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The new guidance goes into effect August 15 and applies to all Illinois regions when they are in Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan. While the guidance applies to school-based sports, park district programs, travel clubs, private leagues and clubs, and recreational leagues and centers, they do not apply to colleges or professional leagues. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA), an organization which provides rules to govern athletic competition among both private and public member schools, announced its modified schedule for high school sports in the 2020-2021 school year.

The new state guidance classifies sports into high-risk, medium-risk, and low-risk categories, and these categories determine which of the four “Type of Play Levels” are allowed. The most restrictive play level only allows non-contact practices and trainings, while the least restrictive level would allow tournaments, out-of-conference play, and out-of-state play. Currently, low-risk sports such as baseball and tennis can play some competitive games or matches with safety measures. High-risk sports such as football and hockey are currently limited to the most restrictive play level.

Notably, the detailed guidance includes both “minimum guidelines” and “encouraged best practices” for health monitoring, physical workspaces, cleaning procedures, staffing, and both participant and non-participant interactions. Not all of the guidance applies to schools, but schools are required to follow the portions that apply to them.

Following the Governor’s announcement, the IHSA released its plan to have high school students play each of usual sports at some point during the school year, albeit with shorter seasons generally and delayed seasons for some sports. Although the IHSA noted that changes to its plan may become necessary, it expects IDPH to approve the framework and intends to release more details to schools after that approval.

Please contact a Robbins Schwartz attorney with your questions about how these restrictions may impact your organization.