Behind the Mask Podcast: Episode 108: Mask Up

Today’s topic is going to be Mask Up. This is about softball. There are a lot of rules that have been put forward to allow the girls to be able to play, coaches to coach, and for us to get back on the field to umpire. Regardless of how you feel about COVID-19, its impacted a lot of things in our lives. How does that affect us on the field? And the most important of that is what can we do as officials to make sure that we don’t hinder those games from being played?

Face Coverings and the IESA

The IESA has provided a number of guiding principles that has allowed softball to be played this Fall. Amongst those, face coverings are the most visible and obvious. Adherence to the IESA Return-to-Play rules are the responsibility of coaches and host schools, however I have received multiple questions about the role an umpire should play in guiding players, coaches, and spectators.

As an umpire, you are not required to wear a face covering while actively officiating a game (live ball play). You are expected to have a face covering on your person while at a facility and you are expected to wear a face covering at the pre-game meeting and in any “discussion” with a coach on the field of play, taking lineup changes, etc. If you are within six feet of a coach, player, or spectator, and the ball is not live, you should have your face covering on.

IESA guidance in the Return-to-Play states

Face Coverings

  • ATHLETES: Face coverings are required at all times when not engaged in training, competing or other strenuous activity.
  • ATHLETES: Face coverings are required whenever athletes are in the dugout or not actively participating in the contest.
  • COACHES: Face coverings must be worn at all times when not actively engaged in strenuous physical activity.
  • SPECTATORS: Face coverings must be worn at all times when attending both indoor and outdoor activities.

The full set of Return-to-Play guidelines is available on the IESA website.

IHSA Licensing and Concussion Test

I emailed a number of officials a couple of days ago notifying them that they are not able to umpires IESA/IHSA games because their registration is incomplete.

Umpires, please remember that CISA cannot assign you to work IESA or IHSA contests if you are not on the IHSA approved umpire list. The most commonly overlooked element that prevents umpires from being approved is the concussion test.

The approved umpires list is updated multiple times a day, so if you did forget to complete that test, and take and pass it, the list will reflect the change fairly quickly. If you have received that email from me, please complete your registration and ensure your tests are complete.

Schools can rest assured that any umpires who are not IHSA-licensed will not be assigned to games.

Sangamon Valley Conference Contracts with CISassigning

The Sangamon Valley Conference (SVC) has contracted with CISassigning for the Fall 2020 softball season.

With a shortened season and limitations placed on schools, the SVC has collectively decided that having a single assignor to assign all softball games would simplify the experience for school personnel and allow them to focus more on student safety and well-being.

SVC member schools include Blue Ridge, Corpus Christi (Bloomington, IL), Epiphany (Normal, IL), Fisher, Heyworth, LeRoy, Lexington, Ridgeview, and Tri-Valley.

If you are an umpire interested in working these games, you will need to join the Central Illinois Softball Assigning umpire roster. You may register for an account on the CISA registration page.


IESA Reverses Decision about Fall 2020 Sports

Given new information from Governor JB Pritzker, the Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) has made an about-face on their previous decision to cancel Fall sports, including softball.

Governor Priztker and his cadre have ranked softball and baseball as low-risk sports, given that limits are placed on how many people are in the dugout together and some additional guidelines. As such, the IESA has determined that softball can be played in the Fall. The IESA has announced that softball teams may begin their practices on August 3 and they may conduct their first game or contest on August 15.

Of course, there are still a number of considerations and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) guidelines to be followed. Adjusting to those guidelines and consulting with parents will take a few days, so we shouldn’t expect much to happen (for umpires at least) on Monday, August 3.

Bloomington-Normal Junior High ADs will meet next week to collectively produce a plan to meet IDPH guidelines to ensure as safe a situation as possible for student-athletes, coaches, and fans.

Visit the IESA website to read the full news release.

CISassigning Adds Heyworth Jr. High to Clients

I’m pleased to announce the Central Illinois Softball Assigning has added Heyworth Junior High as a client starting the Fall of 2020.

After discussion with the junior high athletic director and district superintendent, all Heyworth JH softball games will be assigned through CISassigning. The AD has reviewed and accepted all terms of the CISassigning Expectations and Operations.

Games will be posted for assignment in the coming week on the Available Games page at