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MHSAA approves plan for fall sports’ return amid pandemic

High school sports are on the horizon. Finally.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association Representative Council approved a plan Wednesday for returning sports to member schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

Spring sports came to a crashing halt in March as the virus swept across the country. High school sports venues have been empty and quiet ever since.

The phase-in plan allows lower-risk sports, including Upper Peninsula girls tennis and cross country can begin Aug. 12 with competition beginning Aug. 19 and Aug. 21. Lower Peninsula girls golf, boys tennis and girls swimming and diving can also begin that day.

Moderate and high-risk sports, including football, girls volleyball and boys soccer, can begin practice but not competition. A decision about competition for those three sports will be made by Aug. 20.

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 including conditioning, physical training and skill work with no player equipment except helmets.

Boys soccer and girls volleyball can begin Aug. 12.

The council also voted to cancel scrimmages in fall sports for this school year and approved limitations on the number of teams that may compete at regular season tournaments, invitationals and other multi-team events.

An MHSAA press release said, “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.”

The MHSAA also posted sport-by-sport guidelines for virus precautions.

“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.”

On July 17, the council approved a plan for the 2020-21 school year keeping the traditional calendar for all sports. The plan allows for the possibility of fall sports halting this fall and concluding later in the school year.

“The easy way out would be to postpone all activity to next spring, and we are not taking the easy way out,” Uyl said. “But we will make wise decisions based on medical guidance. 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.”

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