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In-Person Activities and Athletics

Melanie Bennett, Esq.
October 2021
This year, institutions conducting in-person activities and athletics should take extra precautions to protect students.

K-12 schools, colleges, and universities may still choose to postpone in-person activities, such as student clubs and athletics, especially if students aren’t fully vaccinated. When making this decision, weigh the activities’ importance to students’ personal growth and educational experience against the health, safety, and liability risks the COVID-19 pandemic poses.

Consider the following precautions for keeping your in-person student activities and athletics safe. 

Make Participation Phased and Voluntary

Before restarting in-person student activities: 

  • Consider a phased return. Resume activities in phases based upon potential risk of transmission in each activity.
  • Communicate with students and parents. Share the final resumption plan with all activity participants and parents, as applicable. 
  • Make in-person participation voluntary. Inform participants that participation is optional, and that choosing to participate virtually or in person during the pandemic will not affect their future ability to participate in person.

Create an Activity Resumption Plan

Develop a plan that outlines how you will restart any in-person activities. Present it to your institution's COVID-19 action team overseeing your process of resuming operations. Request the team’s input.

Plans should detail activity modifications to meet campus safety requirements, including:

  • Require COVID-19 tests. Before starting the activity, test each unvaccinated participant for COVID-19.
  • Provide safe health screenings. For physical activities requiring an in-person health screening, stagger screenings to ensure physical distancing during waiting and examinations and allow cleaning of exam spaces between screenings.
  • Consider masks and physical distancing. For any in-person activities, consider whether safety measures such as wearing masks or physical distancing are appropriate. More information is available in UE’s COVID-19 Response Resource Collection.
  • Follow governing body guidance. Follow resumption guidance provided by the activity’s international, national, or regional governing body provide (if applicable).

Follow Additional Considerations for Athletics Programs

When restarting athletics programs, consider the following American College Health Association (ACHA) recommendations:

Educate Students, Staff on the Risk of Transmission

The risk of transmission in athletic settings is greater due to frequent physical contact, potential for aerosol transmission during exercise, and potential physical effects of over-training and dehydration on disease resistance.

Create an Athletics COVID-19 Action Team

The team would create an action plan. Include the following participants:

  • Athletic Director
  • Head Athletic Trainer
  • Head Team Physician
  • Coaches and trainers
  • Student Health Services representative
  • Counseling Services representatives
  • Student-athletes

For more detailed guidance on restarting athletics programs, review the athletics portion of the ACHA guidance and the recent NCAA guidance.

Consider Enforcement Options

Consult with your institution’s resumption oversight team and legal counsel to determine whether these enforcement practices are right for your institution:

  • Collect a signed acknowledgment that students (and parents if applicable) read and understood the activity resumption plan.
  • Use assumption of risk language in an informational letter to explain to students and parents the risks involved with conducting in-person activities during a pandemic.
  • Create waiver language stating the risks of the in-person activity and releasing the institution from potential liability. For additional guidance on assumption of risk language and waivers, see UE’s Guide for On-Campus Operations.
  • Add a section to the student code of conduct stating required prevention behavior, health risks associated with violating the policies, and any related sanctions.
More From UE
Guide for On-Campus Operations
Additional Resources

Guidance for Resuming In-Person Activities
National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS): Guidance for Opening Up High School Athletics and Activities 
NCAA: Resocialization of Collegiate Sport
ACHA: Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education for the Fall Semester 2021

Sample Activity Plans and Enforcement
Pasco County Schools: Athletics Waiver
Saint Joseph’s University: Athletics COVID-19 Plan