High school sports are a big deal in Texas, and with the school year upon us, your teen may be excited about participating in football or volleyball this fall. Although sports will continue during COVID-19, it may be risky, and these events will look different than what you’re used to. For example, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) has released guidelines to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 and made changes to its athletics calendar.
We know this is a lot of information to digest, and you might have questions about keeping your children safe. That’s why we’ve put together a guide for what students can expect when participating in athletic events this semester.
Different Schedules for Schools of Different Sizes
Because larger schools may be in areas with higher numbers of COVID-19 cases than smaller ones, the UIL released modifications to the 2020-2021 calendar. For example, smaller schools with a 1A-4A designation were allowed to begin hosting volleyball, football, team tennis, and cross country events in August.
Larger schools with a 5A or 6A classification will have to wait until September 7 to start football and volleyball practices and begin tennis and cross country matches. However, marching bands can start their curriculum on September 7 regardless of the school’s size.
Face Coverings Are Required During Events
Anyone who is not actively participating in the sporting event must wear a face covering, and suitable face coverings include disposable face masks, cloth face coverings, or full-face shields. Other people who will be required to wear masks are employees, parents, and visitors over the age of 10.
Exceptions to this rule include people with medical conditions or disabilities preventing them from wearing a mask, participants or spectators consuming food or drink, and groups maintaining at least 6 feet of social distancing.
Screening for COVID-19 Symptoms
Parents must ensure they don’t allow students with COVID-19 symptoms to participate in extracurricular activities, and they may be asked screening questions about their children to prevent this from happening. Also, parents who are dropping off or picking up their teens might be asked these questions about themselves.
Staff members will be screened before entering areas where UIL events are conducted. They must take their temperature and report to the school if they are ill, test positive, or have been in close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.
Furthermore, visitors should be checked for symptoms or contact with positive cases. If anyone fails these criteria, schools can prevent them from entering school facilities or any area where activities occur.
Disinfecting Equipment and Locker Rooms
In order to reduce the risk in areas where people congregate, like band halls, performance areas, or locker rooms, schools will make hand sanitizer, soap and water, or other disinfectants available. Students should make sure they cleanse their hands whenever they can.
Frequently touched surfaces and equipment should be cleaned each day. In addition, schools may assign staff members to make sure school protocols are followed, such as wearing face coverings when in the locker room or band hall.
Groups Not Participating in the Contest
Groups such as cheerleaders, drill teams, and marching bands can perform at games, but their numbers may be limited. These groups are required to maintain appropriate distancing from athletes and avoid mixing with fans. They’ll also be required to wear masks.
Refreshments for Athletes and Spectators
Concession stands can be opened with workers wearing face masks, and some schools may provide water and food for athletes. However, schools should ensure students are not sharing these items, and they should bring their own drinks and food when possible.
UIL Eligibility Requirements
Since some participants are taking classes remotely, UIL eligibility requirements are different this fall. Teenagers can participate in UIL activities with the school they are enrolled in, whether remote or in-person, as long as they meet all other eligibility requirements.
If you have questions about your children participating in UIL events, schedule a televisit, or physical, with your St. Joseph and Texas A&M Health Network primary care physician to ensure they’re prepared for sports this fall.
CDC | Playing Sports
UIL | 2020-2021 UIL COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Guidelines
UIL | COVID-19 Information
UIL | Academic Requirements