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Iowa summer high school sports set to return

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday that the state’s high school summer sports will be allowed to play after the entire spring season was canceled due to concerns over COVID-19. 

The announcement allows for the start of baseball and softball practices to begin June 1 with the earliest contests being played June 15. Spectators will be allowed at the games. 

Bill Byrnes, the head softball coach for Lake Mills, said he was surprised with the timing of the announcement, but is excited for the return of live sporting events. 

I think as things were starting to reopen, I felt we had a chance to have a season,” Brynes said. “For sure things will be different for all involved and how that exactly looks will be a work in progress. I am hoping everyone has a lot of patience as we move ahead, as some aspects of the season will be different. I am excited for the players, especially seniors who can have some normalcy to the end of their senior year.”

The announcement said all schools that plan to start their seasons must follow guidelines set in place by the Iowa Department of Education. The Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union released a joint statement shortly after Reynolds’ announcement with guidelines for reopening. Some of those guidelines included: 

  • Posting signage indicating no one should attend or participate if they currently have symptoms or have been in contact with anyone with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the last 14 days. 
  • Dugouts may only be used during games. They will be off limits during practices. 
  • Players should use their own gloves, helmets and bats and much as possible.
  • Players must bring their own beverages to consume during and after games. No shared drinking fountains, water stations or coolers may be used. 
  • Coaches must sanitize shared equipment before and after each game and practice.
  • Players should check their temperatures before attending games and practices. 
  • Anyone with any symptoms of illness will not be allowed to participate. 
  • Schools must limit the use of bleachers for fans. They should encourage fans to bring their own chairs or stand. Fans should also practice social distancing between different households. 
  • Fans must not attend games if they have symptoms of illness. 
  • No concession stands are permitted. 
  • Coaches must ban the spitting of sunflower seed shells.
  • Contact public health if a positive case of COVID-19 is reported.  

“We trust that our administrators, coaches, umpires and fans will responsibly follow the guidelines in place to keep themselves and each other safe,” IHSAA executive director Tom Keating said in the statement. “This is terrific news and is a step toward getting our student-athletes reconnected to the activities that mean so much to them.”

Spring sports never began and were eventually canceled all together. The original start date for baseball and softball practices to begin was May 4. 

“Being able to get in half of the baseball season is going to be great for the kids,” said Lake Mills baseball head coach Chris Throne. “The seniors deserve to go out with some normalcy after missing their whole spring season. Can’t wait to get out there with them June 1.”

Northwood-Kensett’s baseball head coach Jeff Ferstein echoed Throne’s statements. 

“I am excited to get back underway with some version of normalcy and to allow this year’s senior class a chance to get to play in their last season,” Ferstein said.

Both the ISHAA and IGHSAU are expected to release further sport-specific guidelines and FAQs early next week. 

Both organizations plan to hold their state tournaments at the originally scheduled locations — softball at Harlan Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and baseball at Principal Park in Des Moines. 

Coach-athlete contact for all in-person, out-of-season sports is still suspended until July 1 per guidance from the Iowa Department of Education.