This document is intended to provide guidance for schools conducting practices and hosting meets during the 2021 IHSA Water Polo seasons.  The guidelines explained in this document are intended to decrease potential exposure to respiratory droplets and potential for illness through safe practices such as social distancing, proper hygiene, and appropriate protective equipment.  This is not an exhaustive list, and school officials may take additional measures based on requirements set forth by their school district and/or local health officials.  Please understand that even with this guidance, there is still risk of transmitting an illness at Water Polo practice and contests events.  Additionally, with the changing nature of the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, these guidelines may be modified.
Modified Season:
  • On January 27, 2021, the IHSA Board of Directors modified the IHSA Water Polo seasons along with all other sport seasons in response to the circumstances surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The modified boys and girls water polo season is as follows:
    • March 15 – Practice May Begin
    • After 7 days of practice – First Contest May be Held
    • May 29 – End of Season (with or without a state series)
  • Note: Avoid scheduling regular season games after May 17 in order to allow open dates for potential postseason events.
  • If your varsity water polo team has difficulty meeting the 6-contest IHSA By-law requirement due to circumstances surrounding the pandemic, you may contact IHSA Executive Director, Craig Anderson (canderson@ihsa.org), to inquire about a waiver.
  • Currently, schools can compete against other schools within their region with respect to their COVID-19 regional status of Phase 4. In addition, schools may compete against non-conference opponents within a 30-mile radius of their facility and whose region is also in Phase 4. For further guidance refer to https://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/community-guidance/sports-safety-guidance
  • Teams still must follow IHSA By-laws 5.160 and 5.330 Contest Limitations https://www.ihsa.org/documents/forms/current/IHSA_Section5.pdf
General Requirements and Considerations:
  • All teams must adhere to the guidelines of IHSA Return to Play Phase 4.
Social distancing between individuals of at least 6 feet must be maintained at all times.
  •  Handshakes, fist bumps, hugging, etc. are not permissible.
  • Dual contests are most effective at maintaining fewer competitors, school personnel, officials, and spectators. Dual contests make it easier to space those in attendance to the appropriate social distancing. Contests must adhere to the event capacity guidelines outlined in IHSA Return to Play mitigations.
Multi-team Contests
  • If schools have scheduled larger meets than a dual, or invitational, hosts must ensure that ALL event attendees are held to the capacity guidelines outlined in IHSA Return to Play Phase 4.
  •  Per IDPH guidelines, competition is limited Phase 4 or Tier 1 mitigations. (See IDPH COVID EMS-Region Map link below in resources). 
  •  For transportation to and from extracurricular events, schools may adhere to the same guidance provided by ISBE regarding transporting students to and from school.
  • Practices are solely intra-team.
Requirements and Considerations for Game Managers and Officials. 
Pool Facilities:
  • Consider increasing water sanitation level, i.e., keep chlorine closer to 2.0 PPM.
Team Benches (2-2-1, 2-2-2, 4-2)
  • Teams should be seated on opposite sides of the pool and away from the officials’ table.
  • Suspend the protocol of teams changing ends. If possible, place team benches opposite the spectator seating.
  • Additional chairs or rows may be added to allow bench personnel to observe social distancing of 6 feet or greater between bench personnel.
  • Players not in game must wear a mask and MUST be separated by 6 feet in bench area.
  • During time outs, players and coaches should maintain social distance.
  • To promote social distancing, substitute players may be in the water behind the goal line outside the re-entry area, at least 2 meters from the goal, provided this is possible on both ends of the field of play.
  • Head coaches shall sit or stand behind the goal line in the team area when the team is on defense and shall maintain 6 feet of distance from players and officials.
  • Players not in game must wear a mask and MUST be separated by 6 feet in bench area.
  • During time outs, players and coaches should maintain social distance.
Pre-game Captains Meeting (2-5-2)
  • Decrease number of participants or hold one conference with officials and coaches and one meeting with officials and captains. The referee can use P.A. system or starting-system microphone to allow participants to hear but keep them properly separated.
Game Officials (3-1-1, 3-1-2, 3-14, 3-17, 3-18, 3-20, 3-21)
  • The officials include two referees, a scorekeeper, exclusion secretary, game timer and shot clock timer.