A Look At Sample COVID Protocols From Illinois’ High School Sectionals

The coronavirus pandemic has completely transformed so many routine activities – among them, swim meets.

In Illinois, girls high school swimming is a fall sport. And as in every state with fall swimming & diving, teams have had to adjust to a whole host of new wrinkles to meets. We received some meet info about an IHSA section meet in Illinois this weekend – and for the benefit of teams in other states trying to predict what a COVID-adjusted season might look like, we’ll run through a few of the key points:

Masks on deck

While swimming or diving in a mask isn’t possible, most meet rules require athletes and coaches to wear masks at all times when not competing. The Illinois rules are no exception: athletes are to wear masks while waiting for their heat, take them off to swim or dive, and then put them back on upon crawling out of the pool. The rules allow disqualifications to anyone who doesn’t follow the mask policy.

Warmups in home pools – one-way sprints at meet site

In this particular meet, teams are asked to warm up in their home pools before arriving to the competition site. This obviously can’t be done everywhere, especially when teams in a meet are spread out geographically. But it’s a potential adjustment for teams without a lengthy bus ride to the competition site.

In the Illinois format, the competition pool opens for one-way sprints in two roughly 20-minute sessions before the meet. That creates a one-way traffic flow and prevents teams from intermingling too much. (Each team is assigned to one lane for their sprints).

On-Deck Capacity Limits

The Illinois meet only allows athletes on the pool deck for their specific events. Before each event, athletes are called to the deck from their team area. After the event, they head back to their team area before the next event’s swimmers are called.

Meanwhile each team is only allowed one coach on deck at a time, but teams can swap which coach is on deck during event transitions. The team areas have a video feed to watch the meet when they’re not on deck.

Warm-downs after each event

Athletes are allowed to warm down in their respective lanes after their event – the distance allowed isn’t yet specified in the version of protocols we saw.


Meet protocols now include a strict set of sanitizing rules. In the Illinois protocols, there’s one timer for each lane, and that timer uses a spray bottle to sanitize the starting blocks after each race.

The protocols also call for sanitizing the 500 free lap counters between each race. For diving, each diver is responsible for sanitizing the railings of the diving board before their dive.

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1 month ago

As someone who has competed in a COVID-restricted meet (intrasquad), here are a few more:
-Limited to 4 swimmers per lane for warm-up (2 at walls and 2 at flags). Each swimmer has a specific lane/position assignment.
-Smaller sessions (less swimmers per session). Because of that, swimmers raced 4 events in one session.
-Socially distanced staging to reduce crowding behind blocks
-Temperature checks and symptom surveys before entry
-Swimmers must go to specified areas (away from deck) when not swimming
-Meets could be held outdoors (mine was outdoors and it was really cold) because it’s safer
-No spectators allowed

1 month ago

No spectators. Pathetic

Reply to  Doconc
1 month ago

It’s all “safety theatre”

VA Steve
Reply to  Hiswimcoach
1 month ago

Depends on the size of the pool deck and stands. Large meets might require teams to sit in the stands rather than the deck. That then has a cascading effect on whether or not to allow spectators. Trust me the swimmers care more about the swimming and if swim parents, including me (when not officiating), need to miss it we will. Fortunately several pools locally have set up web streaming which is not complicated to do.

Last edited 1 month ago by VA Steve
1 month ago

Pitiful! Safety theater is right! Why doesn’t Illinois just make the kids compete in hazmat suits?

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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