MHSAA releases phased-in competition plan for fall sports

GENESEE COUNTY—The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) has approved a new round of guidelines regarding the launch of school sports in the fall.

On July 29, the MHSAA’s Representative Council adopted a plan to phase in competition for fall sports, while deterring the spread of COVID-19.

The Council affirmed that lower-risk sports—including cross country, Lower Peninsula girls golf, Lower Peninsula boys tennis and Upper Peninsula girls tennis, and Lower Peninsula girls swimming & diving– may begin practice on Aug. 12. Competition for these respective sports would begin on their traditional start dates of Aug. 19 and 21.

Moderate and high-risk sports, including football, girls volleyball and boys soccer, will be allowed to 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, but football programs will be expected to delay the start of practice with full player pads and equipment until 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. This week of acclimatization will be similar to allowed summer football activities that have been ongoing for schools since June.

The MHSAA council also voted to cancel scrimmages in all fall sports for this school year and approved limitations on the numbers of teams that may compete together at regular-season tournaments, invitationals and other multi-team events. The MHSAA said that eliminating scrimmages emphasizes the importance of keeping teams from mixing before the first date of competition, and that the regular-season limitations may lessen opportunities for viral spread while still allowing meets to be conducted.

Plans for restarting moderate and high-risk sports will 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. Currently, two regions are in Phase 5, which allow for limited indoor activity, while Genesee County and several other regions are in Phase 4 and unable to host indoor training, practice or competition.

The start of volleyball and swimming and diving practices will be contingent in part on the reopening of indoor facilities. Those sports may begin their practices outdoors if not allowed to be indoors by Aug. 12.

On July 17, the MHSAA approved a return-to-activity plan for the 2020-21 school year, retaining the traditional calendar of fall, winter and spring sports, but allowing for the possibility that fall sports forced to halt activity during the next four months may conclude later in the school year.

The MHSAA has also posted sport-by-sport guidance documents outlining increased precautions designed to limit the viral spread, plus a four-page overview with precautions that apply generally for all sports. Specific sport guidelines and overviews are available at –B.G.