MHSAA to phase in practice and competition for fall
EAST LANSING — The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association on Wednesday approved the next steps in returning sports for member schools, adopting a plan to phase in competition for fall sports in hopes of continuing to deter the spread of COVID-19.
The council affirmed that lower-risk sports — Lower Peninsula girls golf, Lower Peninsula boys tennis and Upper Peninsula girls tennis, cross country and Lower Peninsula girls swimming and diving — may begin practice on Aug. 12 and begin competition on their traditional start dates of Aug. 19 and 21.
However, moderate and high-risk sports — football, girls volleyball and boys soccer — may begin practice but not competition. Decisions about competition timelines for these three sports will be made by Aug. 20.
Practice for boys soccer and girls volleyball may begin on Aug. 12. Football will delay the start of practice with full player pads and equipment until Monday, Aug. 17. The week of Aug. 10 may include football practice sessions consisting of conditioning, physical training and skill work with no other player equipment except helmets.
The council — the MHSAA’s 19-member legislative body — also voted to cancel scrimmages in all fall sports for this school year and approved limitations on numbers of teams that may compete together at regular-season tournaments, invitationals and other multi-team events. The council believed eliminating scrimmages emphasized the importance of keeping teams from mixing before the first date of competition, and the regular-season limitations may lessen opportunities for viral spread while still allowing meets to be conducted.
As this remains a fluid situation, the MHSAA would release updated timelines for competition for football, girls volleyball and boys soccer by Aug. 20 dependent on how the spread of the virus is trending statewide.
Plans remain reliant on sustained metrics measuring virus spread and/or progression by schools and regions across the state according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Safe Start Plan. At the time of the announcement, two regions were in Phase 5, which allows for limited indoor activity, while the rest were in Phase 4 and unable to host indoor training, practice or competition.
The start of volleyball and swimming and diving practices are in part contingent on the reopening of indoor facilities. Those sports may begin their practices outdoors if not allowed to be indoors by Aug. 12.
“The council, reflecting on the positive impact on their athletes this summer from taking part in offseason training, feels it’s of utmost importance to continue athletic activity moving forward,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “If we take a month off, our students will find opportunities to compete through non-school entities that may not be as focused on safety. Our athletic directors and coaches can provide the safest-possible environment to return to sports, and this phased-in approach to competition will help schools continue building on progress already made.”