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Sports Safety Guidance

Updated November 10, 2021

This guidance issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) pertains to all youth recreational sports, including, but not limited to, school-based sports (high school and elementary school), travel clubs, private leagues and clubs, recreational leagues and centers, and park district sports programs. This guidance does NOT pertain to adult recreational sports, professional sports leagues, or college division level sports. This guidance supersedes all previously issued All Sports Guidance issued from IDPH and/or ISBE.

Indoor Sports

For sports played indoors, individuals aged 2 years and older who can medically tolerate a mask, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask and maintain physical distancing to the extent possible. This is in alignment with Executive Order 2021-18, which requires universal indoor masking for youth in public and nonpublic schools serving students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 (pre-K-12), and in accordance with Executive Order 2021-22, which requires statewide universal indoor masking. Individuals playing sports indoors must wear a mask during training, competition, other active exercise, and during other contacts that do not occur during gameplay, such as on the sideline or bench, in the locker room, during team meetings, in the weight room, on the team bus or when carpooling. Participants may remove their mask in limited circumstances, including when actively eating or drinking indoors or while participating in indoor sports when wearing a mask poses an injury risk as described by the American Academy of Pediatrics (see “When should face masks be worn?”). The safest option for engaging in sports-related activities indoors, especially when not wearing a mask, is for those individuals to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In instances when an individual is not yet eligible to be vaccinated or vaccination is medically contraindicated, the safest option for engaging in sports-related activities indoors, especially when not wearing a mask, is for the individual to receive a negative COVID-19 test result prior to competition, preferably within two days. When engaged in sports-related activities indoors without a mask, individuals should do so while maintaining physical distancing to the extent possible, at a recommended distance of 6 feet from others.

All spectators, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask in attendance at indoor youth sports events, including in a public or nonpublic pre-K-12 school setting.

Outdoor Sports

Regardless of vaccination status, individuals may engage in training, competition, and other active exercise without wearing a mask for all sports played outdoors, except where required by laws, rules, or regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. As recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; see “Consistent and Correct Mask Use”) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (see “When should face masks be worn?”), individuals who are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated, particularly in areas of substantial to high transmission. This recommendation applies to training, competition, and other active exercise, and contacts with other unvaccinated individuals that do not occur during gameplay, such as on the sideline or bench, in the locker room, during team meetings, in the weight room, on the team bus or when carpooling, or during meals, especially when eating indoors.

Spectators who are not fully vaccinated should wear a mask in attendance at outdoor youth sports events if unable to maintain recommended physical distance of at least 6 feet from non-household members or if the event is held in a community with substantial to high transmission. 

Screening Testing

CDC and IDPH recommend routine COVID-19 screening testing for individuals involved with youth sports. Coaches, trainers, officials, and other adults involved in youth sports activities should test for COVID-19 at least once per week, regardless of community transmission, according to the CDC (see “Screening Testing”). Adults involved in youth sports activities who are not fully vaccinated and are also school personnel as defined in Executive Order 2021-22 and 23 Ill. Admin. Code 6 may “count” the required weekly testing to satisfy the requirements in Executive Order 2021-22 and 23 Ill. Admin. Code 6 as the once weekly recommended screening test for sports. IDPH recommends that youth participants test for COVID-19 at least twice per week, regardless of sport played, and preferably within two days of competition. To protect in-person learning at school, CDC recommends that sports that involve sustained close contacts with others be canceled in communities with high transmission, unless all participants are fully vaccinated. For more information on screening testing, review IDPH guidance and answers to FAQs on testing for COVID-19 in schools and CDC guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools (see ”Screening Testing”).