Return to Play
Athletics Plan During COVID-19


The goal of the Sacramento City Unified School District’s (SCUSD) Return to Play Athletics Plan is to implement a safe, comprehensive and cohesive plan for student athletes and coaches to return to campus. Participation in athletics benefits students physically, academically, and socially. 

At the foundation of the SCUSD’s Return to Play Athletics Plan is each family’s individual determination about what is best for their own student(s). Bringing our teams together during this pandemic provides students with the motivation and structure to excel in their education. Although our ability to compete athletically remains uncertain, we value the positive social and emotional benefits our athletic teams provide to so many young people. 

During Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the plan, SCUSD coaches will be instructed to “hold students harmless” if families determine their student/athlete is not yet ready to participate in athletics. Parents/families must accept that the school district, school, coaches/staff cannot eliminate all the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Guiding Principles
Return to Play


Health, Safety and Mitigation — The health and safety of all student-athletes and coaching staff are paramount in our recommendations, as well as mitigating the spread of COVID-19. 

Provide Opportunity — We believe that athletics is important to the physical, mental, and social well-being of students. We aim to provide opportunities to our student athletes under the guidance of public health recommendations.

Recognition of Uncertainty — We will continue to utilize all available information to adapt our plan. Due to the fluctuating public health crisis, we understand that our plan needs to be flexible and will be revisited as needed to maintain safety.

Informed Decision-Making — This plan adheres to the policies, protocols, and procedures provided by federal, state, and local county officials. Guidance was also utilized from regional athletic associations.  

Phase 1
Return to Play


In Phase 1, student athletes will participate in outdoor physical conditioning and practice activities in small groups under the guidance of their coaches.  All teams must complete a full five (5) days of only conditioning and practicing public health measures before using any equipment, such as balls or other sporting equipment.

Preparing for Return:

  • Phase 1 participation by student athletes is voluntary.
  • SCUSD coaches will be instructed to “hold students harmless” if families determine their student/athlete is not yet ready to participate in athletics. All athletes and coaches will undergo training on COVID-19 management before conditioning drills begin:
  • Training will be provided through the SCUSD’s Risk Management Department and is available online. 
  • The SCUSD Parent/Guardian COVID-19 waiver must be signed by the athlete’s parent/ guardian prior to the student participating in Phase 1.
  • All student athletes are required to pass a physical exam before their season of sport. The Board of Education can approve a 30-day extension from the athlete’s first day of participation, as long as the athlete has a physical on file with the school athletic director.
  • Coaches need to submit a phase 1 Return to Athletics plan submitted and approved by the site principal and athletic director.

Health Precautions for Students and Staff

  • The SCUSD Return to Health Plan includes specific details about public health guidance and all activities must adhere to this plan and any further revisions.
  • Students must arrive dressed for workouts.
  • All coaches and students will screen for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 prior to each workout. 
  • Upon arriving for practice, staff and students will review the screening questions and affirm they do not meet any of the criteria for staying home.
  • Temperature will be taken for all staff and students present.
  • If no symptoms or temperature of 100.4 or higher are present, the student/staff may participate.
  • If the student/staff has a temperature of 100.4 or higher, and/or does not pass the screening questions:
  • The student or staff will be relocated to an isolated area, ensuring the student and staff keep their face coverings on.
  • The coach will notify the parent/guardian and monitor the individual until support arrives (parent/guardian).
  • Staff will call 911 when symptoms are severe, including persistent pain, pressure in chest area, confusion, bluish lips or face
  • Communication and cleaning protocols will be implemented as directed.

Mitigation Requirements for Students and Staff 

Stay home if you are Sick
  • If a person is sick they must stay home until they are symptom-free for 24 hours without the use of medicine AND at least 10 days have passed since the day the symptoms first appeared. Staff and athletes will not attend practice if they have been exposed to COVID-19. Students and coaches are required to quarantine if they have been exposed to COVID-19 and/or show any signs of symptoms or illness.
Physical Distancing
  • Coaches and students must keep at least 6 feet from other people at all times. Maintaining adequate space is one of the best tools available to avoid exposure to COVID-19 and slow its spread. 
  • Physical contact such as high-fives, fist/chest bumps, and hugs are not allowable at this time. Signs of encouragement and support are vital to team spirit. Teams are encouraged to establish new ways to express support or encouragement for team members.     
  • Visible markings of 6 feet or more will be used to ensure students and staff adhere to physical distancing, such as chalk circles or other such visual measures.
Wash Hands Frequently
  • All students and staff should wash hands upon entering and exiting the facility. Training on effective hand washing and use of sanitizer will be provided to all students and staff.  If soap and water are not available, use district provided alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 
Use Cloth Face Coverings 
  • Cloth face coverings prevent a person from spreading respiratory droplets while talking, singing, breathing, or coughing. They are primarily meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected (people carrying COVID-19 may not always have symptoms). Cloth face coverings are not surgical masks, respirators, or personal protective equipment.  
  • All SCUSD staff (including coaches) are required to wear a cloth face covering, unless not recommended by a physician. In that case, the staff person should wear a face shield, per guidance provided by CDE/CDPH
  • Cloth face coverings must always be worn when participating in school activities, including athletics when physical distancing is difficult to maintain, such as moving around a populated area.
Outdoor Activities
  • Activities that require heavy exertion should be conducted outside in a physically distanced manner without face coverings. Physical distance of more than 6 feet must be adhered to when face coverings are removed for heavy exertion.  
  • If a team is meeting outside and no strenuous physical activity is occurring, face masks must be worn.

Mitigation Guidelines for the Physical Environment

  • Locker rooms will NOT be available during Phase 1.
  • All activities in Phase 1 are to be done outdoors.  
  • While Sacramento County is listed in the “widespread” purple risk level on the State of California COVID Dashboard, certain team activities that may be conducted outdoors are allowed.  
  • Teams may use equipment that can be transported and utilized outside, such as balls and other sporting or conditioning equipment, under the following requirements:  
  • Sports equipment must be designated and marked for each cohort youth sports group. This equipment will not be used by any other cohort youth sports group until it is disinfected.
  • Participants will wash their hands/ or use hand sanitizer prior to and immediately following activities where equipment and/or balls are handled by multiple individuals.
  • All athletic equipment must be disinfected after use by each cohort group. Coaches, trainers and other staff are responsible for ensuring all equipment used by students/athletes and coaches is sanitized after each use.
  • There should be no shared athletic supplies, such as towels, clothing, shoes, or sports specific supplies, between students.
  • If monetary transactions are handled on site, provide contactless payment or prepayment options whenever possible.
  • Students and staff must bring their own water container and/or sports drink
  • Students must access the practice area through outside entrances such as gates, parking lots, etc.
  • No spectators will be allowed (students and coaches only)
  • Youth Sports Conditioning must be conducted in a cohort.  A cohort is a stable group of no more than 27 individuals within the group made up of students and supervising adults.
  • Students will practice and work out with the same student group or cohort throughout Phase 1. 
  • Members of the cohort may be changed only after the member or group has not been in contact with any part of any cohort for 14 days.
  • Students may access restrooms during designated practice times 
  • Each school principal/plant manager/ athletic director will create and implement a cleaning schedule that addresses the needs of all 3 Phases.
  • All school facilities will be properly disinfected and ready for student participation.
  • Prior to moving to Phase 2 each school and sport must have successfully met the guidelines in this document and those outlined by CIF.  
  • Phase 2 will commence once approved by SCUSD and Sacramento County Public Health (SCPH).

Phase 2
Return to Play


Depending on current public health conditions and mitigation requirements, teams having demonstrated that they meet the Phase 1 criteria may move into Phase 2 after approval from the District.  The District will work with  SCPH to ensure that all appropriate safety protocols have been put in place, and any activities associated with Phase 2 are appropriate given current health conditions.

Phase 2 will allow the use of indoor facilities such as gyms, locker rooms and weight rooms, as well as the use of equipment indoors. No school site will begin Phase 2 without explicit permission provided by the District and SCPH. Prior to beginning Phase 2, the District Athletic Director will meet with the site athletic director to review protocols associated with this phase.

  • Phase 2 includes all of the components of Phase 1. 
  • Use of Face Coverings during Indoor Activities:  
  • Cloth face coverings must be worn during indoor physical conditioning and training or physical education classes (except when showering). 
  • Activities conducted inside should be those that do not require heavy exertion and can be done with a face covering. 
  • Players should take a break from exercise if any difficulty in breathing is noted and should change their mask or face covering if it becomes wet and sticks to the player’s face and obstructs breathing. Masks that restrict airflow under heavy exertion (such as N-95 masks) are not advised for exercise.
  • Student athlete protocol guidelines will be posted at each school site.
  • Indoor individual ball drills and sharing balls among the cohort are allowed for all sports with physical distancing.
  • Sports equipment must be designated and marked for each cohort youth sports group. This equipment must not be allowed to be used by any other cohort youth sports group.
  • Participants must wash their hands/use hand sanitizer prior to and immediately following activities where equipment and/or balls are handled by multiple individuals.
  • Participants should avoid touching their faces when engaging in activities where equipment and/or balls are handled by multiple individuals.
  • Equipment must be disinfected prior to use following guidelines established by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).
  • Coaches are responsible for ensuring that all equipment, including weight equipment, is disinfected following each use.
  • Resistance training should be emphasized as well as body weight, and weight machines and free weights that do not require a spotter. 
  • Free weight exercises that require a spotter cannot be conducted while honoring physical distancing norms. Safety measures in all forms must be strictly enforced in the weight room.
  • Weight rooms should follow physical distancing guidelines and adhere to CDPH Guidance for Fitness-Related Organizations.

Phase 3
Return to Play


Phase 3 will involve return to play and competition. Districts and schools must successfully complete Phases 1 and 2. The Superintendent, Board of Education,  and county public health officials will work together to determine if safe resumption of competitive sports is appropriate given conditions.

Sports may move through the phases at different speeds. It is possible that some moderate risk sports may resume full competition in Phase 3 before other sports with a higher risk level. Phase 3 will only begin following explicit approval from Sacramento County Public Health (SCPH). The District will also continue to look to CIF for recommendations and guidance regarding competitive play.

Return to Physical Activity/Training Guidelines/CIF