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IHSAA announces plan for fall sports to return to play

The IHSAA has released a three-phase plan to get fall sport athletes back to a normal schedule.

INDIANAPOLIS — Lots of student-athletes, families and fans are wondering what high school sports will look like in the fall, considering concerns about COVID-19. 

The IHSAA has a three-phase plan, detailed on its website, for the upcoming season.

Packed stands, cheering fans, the hits and hype: they are hallmarks of high school sports. But a lot has changed the past few months.

So with COVID-19 concerns, could some of that spirit be silenced?

The IHSAA is trying to make sure high school sports get back to normal in the fall and has a detailed game plan to get athletes back on the field, safely.

"For us to have a triumphant return to fall sports, we have to have a better summer and we've had a good summer. Our numbers are starting to flatten. Our cases are getting better," IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox said.

The three-phase plan to return to sports was developed with IHSAA, the state health department, the governor's office and the state department of education.

It begins with Phase 1 on July 6: conditioning in small groups, just like you'd see at gyms right now, with extra cleaning, social distancing and optional masks, if the athlete prefers.

Phase 2 has teams officially starting practices on July 20. 

Then by August, it's back to normal competition. And the goal is - normal.

"It's pretty difficult to play tackle football without contact," Cox said. "So tackle football's going to look like tackle football. We're not going to modify the rules of the game."

But he says the phases of this plan could be modified, if COVID-19 numbers go up.

"It's way too difficult to predict six months down the road, even six weeks down the road. It's really you have to take this in kind of two week blocks," Cox explained.

What about fans and families in the stands?

"Right now as we talk, there aren't going to be number limitations in crowds at that point in time if we continue with the roll-out we're at right now," Cox said.

He says some venues may choose to social distance.

And you could see a change at the concession stand: perhaps packaged foods instead of hot dogs and popcorn.

"Also some of our members are considering cashless environments where we're not exchanging money. You've got to show up with a debit card or credit card to buy anything or even to get into the contest," Cox said.

But as of now, those contests this fall are game-on, without many restrictions at all.

"We're hopeful that we continue to behave this summer and do what we're supposed to do so that when we get to fall, we don't have to do that and if we can get to that place, we're going to have a real fun season," Cox said.

READ: Return-to-school guidance for Indiana schools