In this November 2019 file photo, Hermon High School captain Sydney Gallop (right) takes the ball from Cape Elizabeth's Abigail Agrodnia in the Class B soccer state championship game in Falmouth. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

As part of its comprehensive efforts to provide for a return to high school sports competition this season, the Maine Principals’ Association has recommended numerous new guidelines to help ensure the safety of the athletes, coaches, game personnel, officials and spectators during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MPA plan awaits the approval of the appropriate state agencies and, if approved, ultimately is subject to implementation by local school districts.

Here are some of the MPA’s key recommendations for a return to sports. They are based on guidance from the National Federation of State High School Associations, Gov. Janet Mills, the Maine Department of Education, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and the MPA Sports Medicine Committee.

This is only a partial listing of the recommended guidelines. It focuses on competition-specific procedures and does not include numerous considerations such as health education, screening and monitoring, and hygiene.

General sports guidelines

— Maintain social distancing, 3-6 feet, when possible.

— Face coverings are required for athletes, coaches, personnel on the sidelines or any time 3-6 feet of social distancing is not possible.

— Athletes involved in workouts, competition are not required to wear face coverings, except for volleyball.

— Celebratory hugging, high-fives, hand-shaking, fist bumps are discouraged.

— Mouthguards should be left in, or disinfected (after hand washing) prior to use if removed.

— Athletes, coaches should have their own water bottles clearly labeled with their name.

— Outdoor competitions limited by state mandate to 100 people including athletes, coaches, school staff, game personnel, officials and spectators.

— Indoor competitions (volleyball) limited by state mandate to 50 people.

— All coaches must complete the National Federation’s free COVID-19 course.

— No postgame handshake.

High risk

As defined by the NFHS and Maine guidelines for community-based sports.

Football

— Each sideline extended from 10-yard line to 10-yard line to allow for proper social distancing.

— On-field huddles are discouraged to minimize close contact.

— The authorized conference for a charged timeout should take place between the numbers and the hash marks, not at the sideline, and more than one coach may participate.

— Team meetings during timeouts, period breaks, postgame should be socially distanced.

— Timeouts may be extended two two minutes to allow for adequate hydration as water bottles are not allowed on the field of play.

— To facilitate the use of face coverings, coaches and officials should consider using an artificial noisemaker such as an air horn or electronic whistle in place of a traditional whistle.

— Game balls, 3 or 4 for each team, must be sanitized regularly during the contest.

Moderate-to-high risk

Soccer

Soccer is classified as moderate risk by the NFHS and high risk under Maine guidelines for community-based sports.

— Athletes engaged in active play may wear face coverings, but are not required to do so.

— Slide tackling is not permitted if the players are within 6 feet of a third player. Violations result in an indirect free kick for a dangerous play.

— On corner kicks and throw-ins near the penalty areas, there may be only five players from each team, plus the goalie, in the box at the time of the kick or throw. Other players may re-enter the area once the ball is played.

— On all indirect and direct free kicks, players must remain at least 3 feet from each other, eliminating the traditional “wall”.

— Team bench areas may be extended toward each end line to promote social distancing among players and coaches.

— Ball runners must wear a face covering and are encouraged to use their feet to return balls to designated areas, athletes.

— A game ball touched by an outside person should be removed and sanitized prior to being used in the game.

— The clock should be stopped at the first natural stoppage after the 20-minute mark of each half to allow for sanitization of hands and game balls and for a water break.

Moderate risk

Field Hockey

— Athletes engaged in active play may wear face coverings, but are not required to do so.

— Team bench areas may be extended toward each end line to promote social distancing among players and coaches.

— Only one substitute per team is allowed at a time at the scorers’ table.

— A player who is “carded” should take a knee and remain socially distant from others while in the penalty area.

— Three or 4 balls should be available on each sideline during games and should be cleaned and sanitized throughout the contest.

— An additional minute is recommended between the first and second and third and fourth quarters to allow for access to water bottles and face coverings.

— Use of a stick, rather than hands, is recommended to move the ball during a stoppage of play or on the sidelines.

Volleyball

— Face coverings must be worn at all times by anyone in the gym, including the athletes during competition.

— Teams limited to 20 players at each match.

— Venue limited to 50 people, including athletes, coaches, staff and officials.
— Coaches and officials should consider using an artificial noisemaker, such as an electronic whistle or air horn, in place of a whistle.

— Teams won’t switch sides/benches between sets, unless officials determine an advantage is present on one side of the court.

— Athletes, coaches, game personnel should sanitize hands between sets and when entering or exiting the playing area.

— Only athletes playing in the match should handle game balls.

— No team huddles after scoring plays.

Lower risk

Cross Country

— Courses should be widened to 6 feet at their narrowest point and sections where runners might overlap should be wide enough for 3 to 6 feet of spacing between athletes.

— Team tents should be at least 20 feet apart, but athletes should not congregate under the tents.

— Runners should wear disposable face coverings to the starting line that can be discarded or a cloth mask that can be carried during the race.

— Organizers should consider staggered, wave or interval starts.

— The starting line should be divided to accommodate proper spacing with waves stationed 6 feet apart.

— Pack running is discouraged to ensure social distancing throughout the race.

— The finish corral should be widened to encourage distancing and runners should not collapse at the finish line, but disperse immediately after they complete the race.

— Runners completing the race should put on a mask and return to their team area.

Golf

— State and local course competition guidelines apply.

— Twosomes, threesomes and foursomes are permitted.

— Limiting field size, starting from a single tee and spacing starting times to 10 minutes for threesomes and 12 minutes for foursomes is recommended.

— Players should not touch or remove a flagstick but, if adjustment is needed, it should be done with a putter or towel.

— Taking a stroke with the flagstick out of the hole results in a two-stroke penalty and leads to disqualification in the event of a second instance.

— Bunker rakes and ball washers, if present, should not be used.

— Coaches, but not players, may ride in motorized carts during the competition or, if necessary, a player may ride alone transporting only his or her own golf bag.