Fall practices set to start as scheduled, competition for many sports not yet allowed
Thu, 07/30/2020 - 3:59pm caleb
Latest MHSAA plan has golf and cross country proceeding with practices and meets; boys soccer, football, and volleyball not cleared for games
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The Michigan High School Athletic Association released its latest plan for the upcoming fall sports season – proceeding as planned with “lower-risk sports” and possible adjustments for “moderate” and “high-risk sports” – on Wednesday, July 29.
“The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association today 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,” according to a press release from the MHSAA on July 29.
For sports classified as “lower-risk,” seasons are slated to proceed with practices and meets as scheduled.
“Lower-risk sports – Lower Peninsula girls golf, Lower Peninsula boys tennis and Upper Peninsula girls tennis, cross country, and Lower Peninsula girls swimming & diving – may begin practice on August 12 and begin competition on their traditional start dates of August 19 and 21,” according to the MHSAA.
Grayling High School has two “lower-risk” fall sports: cross country and girls golf.
Fall sports that are in the “moderate” and “high-risk” categories are slated to start practices as originally scheduled on August 10 for football and August 12 for other sports, but they are not cleared for games.
“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 August 20,” according to the MHSAA. “Practice for boys soccer and girls volleyball may begin on August 12. Football will delay the start of practice with full player pads and equipment until Monday, August 17. The week of August 10 may include football practice sessions consisting of conditioning, physical training, and skill work with no other player equipment except helmets.”
The MHSAA opted to eliminate scrimmage games for the 2020 fall season and place limits on “multi-team events” for some sports during the upcoming campaign.
“The (Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association) – 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,” according to the MHSAA.
Currently, regulations are different for different parts of the state. Region 6 and Region 8 – northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, respectively – have less stringent restrictions than the other six regions in the state.
“As this remains a fluid situation, the MHSAA would release updated timelines for competition for football, girls volleyball, and boys soccer by August 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 Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Safe Start Plan. Currently two regions are in Phase 5, which allow for limited indoor activity, while the rest are in Phase 4 and unable to host indoor training, practice, or competition,” according to the MHSAA.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-160, signed on Wednesday, July 29, continues the closure of “indoor gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, sports facilities, exercise facilities, exercise studios, and the like” in regions other than 6 and 8.
“The start of volleyball and swimming & 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 August 12,” according to the MHSAA.
“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. The Council chose to make these adjustments to help ensure our athletes have a safe regular season this fall. As we continue to solidify the regular season, we can then turn our attention to building a safe postseason for our athletes.”
During an update to the state on Tuesday, July 28, Governor Whitmer said her office and the MHSAA have had “dialogue,” but the association would make the decisions with regard to sports specifics.
Governor Whitmer mentioned Major League Baseball’s current COVID-19 issues – more than a dozen players on the Miami Marlins have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to multiple sources, forcing several games to be postponed – and said the state must be careful restarting its high school sports.
“(Major League Baseball is) having a hard time and it just shows that this is something that everyone has to be committed to getting it right to have some success,” Governor Whitmer said.
“The easy way out would be to postpone all activity to next spring, and we are not taking the easy way out. But we will make wise decisions based on medical guidance,” Uyl said. “We will make these difficult decisions quickly and appropriately. If we don’t play this fall, it won’t be because we didn’t make every effort to do so.”
MHSAA: ‘Overview Of Important Return To Play Topics’
The Michigan High School Athletic Association released its “Overview Of Important Return To Play Topics” document on Wednesday, July 29, offering protocols for 2020 high school sports. The following is a list of excerpts from the document.
“Fall athletics will not be risk-free, but by following the guidance in this document we all can help mitigate those risks,” according to the MHSAA.
PROTOCOL FOR POSITIVE CASES
1. Contact health department and follow guidance.
2. Close contacts MAY have to quarantine for 14 days – follow health department guidance. “Close contact” is defined as anyone who was less than six feet apart for more than 15 minutes, at any point from two days before symptoms until the time the individual is isolated.
3. Notify all schools, families and officials involved without identifying the person involved.
4. Student, coaches, officials and others at the event but NOT in close contact should be closely monitored for symptoms and may not need testing. Follow health department guidance.
5. Clean the area.
Athletes while participating on the field/court are not required to wear face coverings but are permitted to do so. Bench personnel are required to wear face coverings at all times – this includes athletes not currently in the game, coaches, managers, trainers, statisticians, media and anyone else on the sideline. It is recommended that game officials wear face coverings, but it is not required when carrying out their duties. Contest management, school administrators, media and all staff are required to wear face coverings. Spectators are also required to wear face coverings.
REGULAR SEASON TOURNAMENTS, INVITATIONALS, MULTI-TEAM COMPETITIONS
The following limitations are in place for regular season fall tournaments and invitationals, both home and away. Regular season dual/head-to-head matchups, between multiple levels of two different schools, are not affected.
• Cross Country – maximum of 70 runners are allowed in a race
• Golf – maximum of 72 competitors at an 18-hole site
• Football – two teams at a site
• Soccer – four teams at a site
• Swimming & Diving – four teams at a site
• Tennis – four teams at a site
• Volleyball – four teams at a site
There are no scrimmages allowed for any sports this fall.
Spectators will be limited. The number of spectators and individuals allowed for indoor and outdoor events will be based on future guidance from the governor’s office, and will be posted prior to the first dates of competition.
PRE-WORKOUT AND PRE-GAME SCREENING
All coaches and students should be screened daily for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 prior to participating, including with a temperature check. Anyone with a temperature of greater than 100.3 degrees should not participate and be sent home. Responses to screening questions for each person should be recorded and stored so that there is a record of everyone present in case a student develops COVID-19. These records must be kept confidential. Any person displaying symptoms of COVID-19 should not be allowed to participate, should self-isolate, and contact his or her primary care provider or other health-care professional.
COVID GAME CANCELLATIONS
Except for football, any game cancelled because of COVID issues is not considered a forfeit. It is considered a no play provided the contest has not started.
Schools should strongly consider using a digital ticket or cashless system. Schools must work together to develop a distribution plan for the limited amount of tickets available per game. If a physical ticket is used, each school should consider conducting a pre-sale, with no on-site ticket sales – only tickets, not money, is collected at the event site.
The use of buses is a local school district decision. Cleaning and ability to physical distance should be part of the decision. Schools should also consider length of trips when determining the season schedule. When feasible, consider having parents drive athletes to and from games.
Home teams are not required to offer locker room access. Visiting teams should arrive dressed and ready to play. Locker room restrooms should be available, and a cleaning schedule should be created.
Have an action plan ready for outdoor sports that go into a weather delay. Determine where teams should go in the case of lightning or thunder.
Adequate cleaning schedules should be created and implemented for all athletic facilities.
Schools should consider closing concessions stands, especially when there are limited spectators.