PIAA approves covid-19 guidelines for winter, remains ‘cautiously optimistic’

Thursday, October 29, 2020 | 12:44 AM

PIAA basketball teams should limit the number of individuals on their bench to maintain a social distance of six feet or more when possible.

If need be, add rows of chairs.

The PIAA on Wednesday approved that recommendation and many other covid-19 guidelines for winter sports as executive director Bob Lombardi said he remains “cautiously optimistic” practices will start next month as scheduled.

The guidelines provide game-day advice for social distancing, health screenings, sanitation and other virus-related topics. The information was tailored for teams, coaches and officials.

For example, tournament wrestlers should not warm up simultaneously for competition. Separate warm-up areas should be provided and those mats should be sanitized regularly.

Additionally, wrestlers should shower after each round and put on a fresh uniform “when able and facilities permit.”

Swim teams should be separated in the pool with home teams in lanes 1-3 and visitors in 4-6.

The PIAA recommends basketball players eliminate handshakes while wrestlers should substitute fist-bumps.

However, the jump ball remains in PIAA basketball. The board considered a NFHS recommendation to eliminate them, but the PIAA basketball committee argued to keep them at the start of games and overtime.

Here’s a list of covid-19 guidelines for basketball, swimming, wrestling and competitive spirit approved Wednesday by the PIAA board.


Pregame protocol

• Limit attendees to the referee, head coach, and captain from each team with each coach standing on the center circle on each side of the division line.

• All individuals maintain a social distance of 6 feet or greater at the center circle.

• Suspend handshakes prior to and following the Pregame Conference.

Team benches

• Social distancing should be practiced when possible. Below are some suggestions.

• Limit the number of bench personnel to observe social distancing of 6 feet or greater.

• Place team benches opposite the spectator seating.

• Additional chairs or rows may be added to allow bench personnel to observe social distancing of 6 feet or greater.

• Create separation between the team bench and spectator seating behind the bench.

• Limit contact between players when substituting.

• Substitutes shall report to the scorer’s table but in the event there is more than one substitution, they may sit at the end of the scores table closest to their bench to maintain social distancing.

Officials table

• The host should sanitize the table before the game and at halftime.

• Place officials table sufficiently away from the sideline to allow for additional space for substitutes.

• Limit seats at the table to essential personnel which includes home team scorer and timer with a recommend distance of 6 feet or greater between individuals. Other personnel (visiting scorer, statisticians, media, etc.) may not be deemed essential personnel and an alternate location may be considered for them.

• Table personnel should adhere to the current Pennsylvania Secretary of the Department of Health Order of July 1, 2020.

Pregame/postgame ceremony

• Suspend the pregame introduction handshakes.

• This includes shaking opposing head coach and officials prior to the game.

• Suspend post-game protocol of shaking hands.

Equipment and accessories

• Basketball shall be sanitized as recommended by the ball manufacturer and not used for warm-ups.

• The host school should ensure that the ball is sanitized during time-outs and between quarters.

• Sanitizer should be provided by the host team at the table.

• Cloth face coverings are permissible for players.

• Coaching staff and other bench personnel shall follow the current Pennsylvania Secretary of the Department of Health Order of July 1, 2020.

Officials uniform and equipment

• Long-sleeved shirts are permissible.

• Electronic whistles are permissible (supplies are limited). Choose a whistle whose tone will carry inside.

• Cloth face coverings are permissible.

• Officials should have face coverings readily available in the event they will be conversing with players/coaches/game personnel within six feet.

• Gloves are permissible.

Other considerations

• Throw-in: Official may stand 6 feet or greater away from player making the throw-in and bounce the ball to that player on a front court throw-in.

• Free Throw Administration: The lead official shall stand on the end line and bounce the ball to the free thrower.

• Jump Ball: Official can designate another official to toss the ball in the center restraining circle for all jump-ball situations.


• Officials do not need to sign the score book but will need to have verbal verification on roster and starter submissions prior to the 10-minute mark.



• Require athletes to arrive at venue already in competitive attire or provide alternative accommodations for swimmers and divers to change that allows for 6 feet of social distancing.

Lap counting

• Only one person per lane should be permitted at turning end. Provide hand sanitizer and require lap counters to clean hands and wipe down devices.

Pre-meet conference

• Decrease number of participants or hold one conference with coaches and one meeting with captains. The referee can use public address system or starting system microphone to allow participants to hear but keep them properly separated.

Referee and starter

• Various rules require interactions between officials, coaches and athletes. Alternative methods for of communications include utilization of the P.A. system, hand signals or written communication.

Notification of disqualification

• Notification shall occur from a distance via use of hand signals or the public address system.

Meet officials

• Officials responsible for information processing are often located together at a desk/table adjacent to the competition course or in an office/remote location. Develop alternative methods for submitting entries and movement of non-electronic information. Require a distance of 3-6 feet between individuals seated at the desk/table.


• Timers must assemble at the finish of each race, at the edge of the pool within the 6-8 feet confines of the lane which they are timing. Timers should wear cloth facial coverings.

Submission of entries to referee

• Alternative forms of entry submission can be designed to reduce face-to-face interaction when submitting a proper entry, where/how/to whom entries are submitted, and a reduction or elimination of certain penalties currently attached to improper entries.

Relay takeoff judges and relays

• Require all takeoff judging from the sides of the pool. Space relay swimmers apart from one another. Timers and relay takeoff judges should wear cloth facial coverings.

Diving officials

• Alternative methods for submitting entries and movement of non-electronic information will be required. Recommendations include a distance of 3-6 feet between individuals seated at the desk/table. Create a 3-6 feet space between judges by spacing groups of judges on opposite sides of boards or on one side of the board on a multi-level platform.

Swimming warm-up areas

• Establish multiple sessions for warm-up periods to limit number of swimmers per lane. Restrict the number of swimmers in competition area. Limit number of swimmers per lane during warm-up and warm-down periods.

Diving warm-up areas

• Limit number of divers during warm-up by creating multiple sessions. During competition, divers may not approach the board until their turn to compete. Hot tubs should not be permitted. Dive order sheets should be posted in multiple areas to reduce number of divers viewing at the same time.

Team seating and lane placement

• Keep the teams on opposite sides of the pool and require the home team to compete in lanes 1-3 and visitors to swim in lanes 4-6.

Preparing athletes for competition

• Athlete clerking areas should be eliminated.


General considerations

• Have hand sanitizer and wipes available at the table.

• Wash stations or sanitizer at mat side.

• No one touches the score sheet except the scorer.

• If writing implements are used, they should be sanitized and not shared with anyone.

• Disinfect the mats prior to and following competition.

• Events should be structured to ensure compliance with current indoor occupancy limits and mitigation requirements by the Pa. Department of Health and Governor’s Office.

• Athletes and coaches wear masks off the mat.

• Schools should communicate in advance regarding any screening policies and occupancy levels to be expected from the host site.

• Schools may increase the bench area to assist in social distancing.

• For tournament settings, prohibit all wrestlers from warming up simultaneously for competition. Provide for separate warm-up areas off of the competition mats for use and sanitize regularly.

• Provide for separate warm-up mats off of the competition mat for teams involved in dual competition.

Considerations for coaches

• Wear masks on and off mat.

• Eliminate handshakes with opposing teams post-match.

• Each team should be expected to provide their own leg bands for competition.

• Limit the size of their traveling party to include essential personnel and staff.

• Consider practicing with wrestlers in pods to limit close contacts across the entire team.

Considerations for wrestlers

• Daily screening prior to practice and competition should be conducted pursuant to each school’s adopted health and safety plan.

• Shower after each round and put on a fresh uniform, when able and facilities permit.

• Wear masks off the mat when not competing.

• Eliminate handshakes with opposing coaches post-match.

• The use of a fist bump in lieu of a pre- and post-match handshake is recommended.

Considerations for referees

• Bring personal hand sanitizer. Wash hands frequently.

• Don’t share equipment.

• Long-sleeved undershirts are permissible. If worn, they are required to be black in color.

• Change whistle several times during the day.

• Follow social distancing guidelines. Consider six feet minimum distance when talking to others (players, coaches, other officials).

• Consider use of a commercially manufactured whistle cover.

• Do not shake hands and follow pregame and postgame ceremony guidelines established by state associations.

• Officials may recognize the winner of the match by pointing to the wrestler and raising the appropriate color wrist band. Contact with wrestlers is discouraged.

• Officials may wear masks or face shields.

• Mask or face shields are required when not actively officiating the match.

• Officials may wear disposable gloves. If worn, they must change after each match.

Considerations for parents

• Make sure your athlete and immediate household members are free from illness before participating in practice and competition (if there is doubt stay home).

• Provide personal items for your child and clearly label them.

• Disinfect your student’s personal equipment after each match or practice which would include wiping down headgear, washing clothing and bags used to transport gear.

Competitive spirit

General considerations

• Provide access to hand-washing areas and wash hands during breaks or as reasonably necessary, with particular attention after participating in stunts.

• Athletes, coaches and support staff who are a member of a high-risk group or live at home with a member of a high-risk group should consider attending training sessions virtually.

• Athletes and parents should be made aware of current best practices for minimizing the spread. Athletes should be sure to wash their hands thoroughly and/or use hand sanitizer before, during, and after practice and should avoid touching their face.

• Athletes should maintain their equipment themselves and there should be no other shared equipment, including, but not limited to the following: water bottles, poms, megaphones and signs

Physical distancing

• Use proper physical distancing to minimize contact.

• Limit contact between groups at exits and entrances by staggering arrival/departure times between cohort groups (individual stunt groups, teams, etc.) and designating separate entrances and exits when possible.

• Avoid congregating before, during and after practice.

• Contact and physical distancing should follow all local health directives.

• Keep stunt groups together in their cohort. Refrain from mixing and matching bases and tops from different groups.

• Keep stunt groups distanced from other stunt groups when possible (i.e. when not building pyramids), while allowing for all groups to remain on the proper surface for stunting.

• The type of contact found in cheer can vary greatly and can be adjusted to meet local distancing guidelines.

Physical contact with other teams

• Participation in cheer and stunt does not involve physical interaction with other teams. In this regard, contact during games and competition is similar to that found in volleyball or tennis.

Face coverings

USA Cheer recommends allowing face coverings with the following guidelines:

• Face coverings should not impede vision or movement.

• Face coverings should be soft and pliable with no exposed metal, and should provide adequate ventilation and protection from the spread of particulate matter.

• Modifications to skills should be considered while wearing face coverings, such as limiting inversions, twisting and tosses.

• Face coverings should be snug-fitting.

Use these examples when considering face coverings.

• Coverings that are held in place with over-the-head straps using Velcro or other breakaway type connections.

• Full-head coverings.

• Coverings that minimize the chance of having fingers caught in them or shifting to impede any visual sight.

Physical readiness

• Due to shutdowns and general isolation, many athletes have not participated in an activity in several months. Even with individual conditioning and practicing jumps and tumbling, athletes will need a period of acclimatization to prepare for physical activity.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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