Fall sports other than football to remain in place
Thu, 08/20/2020 - 4:26pm caleb
MHSAA gives green light to soccer, volleyball to begin competition, but only in Region 6 and Region 8
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Football is moving to the spring, but the rest of the fall sports line-up – a list that includes boys soccer, volleyball, cross country, and girls golf for Grayling High School – is staying where it is, according to an announcement from the Michigan High School Athletic Association on Thursday, August 20, but some of those sports are currently cleared for competition only in Region 6 and Region 8 of the state.
On Friday, August 14, the MHSAA announced the move of football from fall to spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The MHSAA categorizes football as a “high-risk” sport because of “close, sustained contact between participants, lack of significant protective barriers, and high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants.”
At approximately 3 p.m. on Thursday, August 20, the MHSAA announced that the other fall sports would not be moved at this time, including volleyball, which is currently allowed to practice inside in Region 6 and Region 8, but not in the rest of the state. Volleyball and soccer are listed by the MHSAA as “moderate-risk” sports.
(“Moderate risk sports involve close, sustained contact, but with protective equipment in place that may reduce the likelihood of respiratory particle transmission between participants or intermittent close contact, or group sports, or sports that use equipment that can’t be cleaned between participants. Volleyball could potentially be considered ‘lower risk’ with appropriate cleaning of equipment and use of face coverings by participants,” according to the MHSAA.)
“The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association today approved the start of competition in girls volleyball, boys soccer, and girls swimming & diving in regions of Michigan authorized for that activity by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders, with competition in those sports pending in regions where those activities are not yet allowed as part of preventing spread of COVID-19,” according to the MHSAA. “Schools in the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula – designated as Regions 6 and 8, respectively, by executive order – are allowed to begin competition August 21, as originally scheduled. Schools in all other Regions may continue outdoor practice, pending further executive orders allowing for the opening of indoor facilities and physical distancing while competing in those areas.”
(Grayling High School is in Region 6 along with most of northern Michigan. Region 8 includes the Upper Peninsula.)
MHSAA officials said they expect to get more clarity soon on the issue of high school sports in Michigan with upcoming “guidance” from the governor.
“Our (Representative Council) has made clear it is ready to offer students these opportunities, pending approval from Governor Whitmer that we may do so,” said Mark Uyl, MHSAA Executive Director. “We have been told that within a week, future guidance will address athletic issues that exist in current executive orders. We are awaiting that guidance.”
“The MHSAA and Representative Council are committed to following all current and future executive orders and safety precautions; however, we need more answers before we can give all of our member schools the go-ahead to play each other again, and the majority of our schools are in regions that are not yet allowed to take part in volleyball, soccer, and swim,” Uyl said.
Cross country and girls golf – listed by the MHSAA as “lower-risk” sports – have been allowed to proceed with practices and competition as scheduled in all regions of the state, and the announcement from the association on Thursday, August 20, did not offer any changes with regard to those two sports.
There are currently limits in place for the number of people allowed at volleyball and soccer competition sites.
Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-160 – the “Amended Safe Start Order” – limits indoor gatherings in general to 10 people, but it offers an exception for sports venues in Region 6 and Region 8 if they comply with physical distancing recommendations.
“An indoor sports arena or similar indoor venue may be open to spectators” as long as “persons not part of the same household may maintain six feet of distance from one another at all times” and the site “limits the number of people in the venue to 25 percent of its maximum capacity or to 250, whichever is smaller,” in Region 6 and Region 8 in Michigan, according to Executive Order 2020-160.
“For attendance purposes, schools in Regions 6 and 8 may have for indoor volleyball a total of 250 people or 25 percent of a facility’s capacity, whichever is smallest. Outdoor competition in Regions 6 and 8 may have 500 people or 25 percent of capacity, whichever is smallest. For all three sports, the total numbers of people allowed to be present include all participants, officials and school and game personnel, media, and fans,” according to the MHSAA.