Return to Play Preparation

The MPSSAA has broken each season into four time frames based on the cyclical operations member schools face throughout the course of an interscholastic season.  Under these timeframes are specific guidance to assist Local School System (LSS) systematically implement interscholastic athletics.  These time frames include preparation, preseason, participation, and postseason.    



LSSs should begin the preparation phase as soon as possible, assembling a return to play team to assess upcoming guidance from the MPSSAA and begin to implement policies and procedures related to health and safety measures and operational measures for the return of interscholastic athletics.  This section has been divided into health related and operational related guidance.    


Health-Related Items - Each LSS should communicate effectively and implement plans for addressing the following areas:  


PreParticipation Physicals - Athletes must continue to follow the state regulations regarding completion of an annual pre-participation physical examination.  The MPSSAA Medical Advisory Committee has added a supplementary sheet to this physical form for the use of appropriate health care providers.  This form is attached to the linked PPE form below.  LSSs should use the preparation phase to ensure all students have an up-to-date physical on file.  Recommended preparticipation physical form may be found at:


The MPSSAA Medical Advisory Committee Recommends:


  • If parents think their child is immunocompromised, please check with your child’s healthcare provider (Physician (MD/DO), Nurse Practitioner (NP), Physician Assistant (PA)) before returning them to sports.
  • Athletes who have been hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 or multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) should have a thorough cardiovascular evaluation or cardiology consultation prior to return.
  • Athletes, coaches, and officials who should consider delaying their participation in sports and activities are those with any of the following:
  1. Age Greater than 65;
  2. Diabetes;
  3. Chronic lung disease including moderate to severe asthma;
  4. Severe obesity (Body Mass Index >40 kg/m2);
  5. Chronic kidney disease treated with dialysis;
  6. Chronic liver disease (cirrhosis);
  7. Heart conditions (coronary artery disease, hypertension, heart rhythm problems (arrhythmia), and heart defects you are born with (congenital heart defects);
  8. Immunocompromised (e.g. any transplant recipient, needing immunosuppressant medications (e.g. steroids, biologics, etc.), patients receiving chemotherapy, etc.);
  9. Nursing home resident or long term care resident;
  10. Thalassemia or sickle cell disease.

CDC People Who Are at High Risk For Severe Illness


Parent/Student-Athlete‌ Participation Acknowledgement Statements - Included among pre-participation forms, it is recommended LSS implement a sign off acknowledging both parent/guardian and student athlete has read provided information on the risk of COVID-19 as it relates to their participation in interscholastic athletics and activities.  This form also includes acknowledgement of the symptom free requirements from the CDC for attendance at any gathering or event.  (APPENDIX B)


Attendance Tracking Sheet - Athletes, coaches, officials/referees/umpires, and other essential athletic administrators (i.e. athletic trainers, facility managers, grounds crew, etc.) MUST be listed on an attendance tracking sheet.  These documents should be saved to document attendance at events for contact tracing if it should become necessary.  (APPENDIX C)


School Health Service and Athletic Administration Communication – It is imperative that schools ensure appropriate communication between school-based health service staff and athletic administration staff.  This communication is necessary to ensure properly administered, athletic health decisions are aligned with everyday instructional decisions and schools are prepared to handle a positive case.  

Communication & Social Media - Schools should communicate the game plan and framework for student-athletes to be eligible for participation.  

  • Communicating the game plan/framework effectively
  • Promoting expectations
  • Separating facts from myths - quote sources
  • Sell the safety of sports


Positive Cases - LSS Planning teams should be prepared for handling a positive test within their teams or schools.  LSS protocol should be followed and aligned with protocol if a positive case was found during the normal course of the school day.  The CDC provides additional guidance on handling positive cases.


Operational Guidelines - Each LSS should communicate effectively and implement plans for addressing the following areas:  


Facility Assessment, Preparation, and Equipment Needs

  • LSSs and schools should assess each facility and prepare for various athletic opportunities.    CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfecting should be followed.
  • Plans and forms should be developed to ensure daily equipment and facility disinfection needs. School systems should assess personal protection equipment, sanitizers, face masks and other needs.  These items should be a high priority due to the limited availability and supply of some items.  


Entrance/Exit Strategies

  • Practice or games times should be spaced out to decrease the number of individuals coming and going at the same time and facilitate social distancing.
  • Limit spectators allowed at any workouts or practices. Parents/caregivers can remain in their cars during this time. No congregating should be allowed in the parking lot or fields. A drop-off line for practices is recommended to avoid unnecessary exposure. 
  • Carpooling should not be allowed unless only members of immediate family

Limitations on Gatherings

  • Follow most recent state ordered guidance on the size of gatherings.
  • During competitions, spectators should practice social distancing as permissible and spectators should wear masks/face covering. Limits on the number of spectators should be determined by organizations and schools based on multiple factors (i.e. gym size, indoor/outdoor) to promote social distancing.  The maximum number of spectators should be posted at all gates, along with reminders of 6 ft. social distancing.
  • Only essential  individuals should be present on the field for games.  Schools should limit the presence of managers and student assistants to on-field exposure.


Face Coverings

  • To the extent possible, individuals engaged in the sport and at the venue shall wear a face covering, especially when social distancing is not feasible. (Maryland Health Department Order: 6.12.01)
  • Participants on the sideline are recommended to use face coverings.  
  • The MPSSAA Medical Advisory Committee recommends any participants wearing a face mask cover should:   
    • Be aware of the face mask will increase CO2 retention;
    • Be aware of increased concerns of heat illness;
    • Be disinfected daily by the user;
    • Take additional water and rest breaks;
    • Find social distancing areas of six or more feet from other participants during recovery; and,  
    • Designate a set area for intermittent removal and storage.

Hygiene Practices

  • Hand hygiene is essential. Organizations and facilities need to promote frequent and effective, hand hygiene with ample hand sanitizer (>60% ethanol or >70% isopropanol) dispensers and areas with soap and water in many different locations. Families may be asked to provide their own.

Hydration and Nutrition

  • No sharing of water bottles. An individual athlete should use their own clearly marked bottle.  
  • Coolers, which should be limited in use, should be properly sanitized after each use, and a new cooler should be used for each team or group. CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfecting should be followed.
  • Hydration station (water cows, water trouch, water fountains, etc.) are not recommended. If used, they should be utilized only for refilling of personal water bottles and must be cleaned after every practice/contest.
  • If food is offered at any event, have pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee instead of a buffet or family-style meal. Avoid sharing food and utensils. Offer hand sanitizer or encourage hand washing
  • Ice towels should be marked for individual use only, then discarded or washed properly.
  • No whirlpool or cold/hot tubs should be used during any of the listed phases. Best practice for emergency use still applies.
  • Have a cold water immersion tub on-site or within 5 minutes of the field.
  • On field, having ice towels ready in addition to the cold tub is recommended for cooling during breaks and for covering the head in the event that an athlete has an exertional heatstroke and needs to be immersed.


Locker Rooms and Training Areas

  • The use of locker rooms is not recommended during these stages. Proper area for equipment storage and cleaning is recommended as well as appropriately spaced individual areas for athletes to store their personal belongings during activity. 

Physical Activity and Athletic Equipment

  • No handshakes or fist bumps should take place.
  • No team huddles.
  • No spitting or sunflower seeds
  • Any equipment used during activities should be disinfected with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified products as able.
  • Any jerseys used during these workouts should be washed daily and not switched to different players during workout. No sharing of pennies should be permitted.


Return to Exercise, Conditioning, and Weight Training


Accommodations for students with special needs

  • Exceptions may be needed for some of these conditions based on circumstances.
  • Showers may be needed after practice in some circumstances (eg. working after practice, homeless). Coaches and administrators can make these exceptions. Social distancing should be maximized and proper cleaning should occur.
  • Water bottles that can be clearly marked for individuals should be made available. Daily cleaning should occur after an individual uses them.
  • For parents/caregivers that rely on public transportation or walk, an area away from practice should be set aside that allows for social distancing.
  • Schools and organizations should attempt to have extra masks/face coverings available. These should be washed after each use if cloth-based.
  • For athletes not able to wash workout clothes attempts should be made by the school and organizations to help in providing this for them.
  • Additional situations may arise based on social vulnerabilities. Schools and organizations should attempt to think of these situations and develop solutions that continue to practice the key elements of preventing COVID-19 transmission.