Practice may begin, but no competition for football, soccer, volleyball at first

DOWAGIAC — Fall sports will begin practicing according to schedule, but football, soccer and volleyball will not be allowed to start competition until after the Michigan High School Athletic Associations gets together Aug. 20 to assess the situation.

The MHSAA announced Wednesday afternoon that low-risk sports such as girls golf, boys tennis, cross country and swimming and diving may begin their preseason practices on Aug. 12 and begin competition on their traditional starting dates of Aug. 19 and Aug. 21.

Soccer and volleyball may begin preseason practices on Aug. 12, while football will delay its start until Aug. 17 in full pads and equipment. Football can begin conditioning, physical training and skill work with only helmets on Monday, Aug. 10.

The workout rules that were put in place in June will continue for football.

The MHSAA’s Representative Council also voted to cancel all scrimmages in all fall sports this year and approved limitations on numbers of teams that may compete together at regular-season tournaments, invitational or other multi-team events.

By canceling the scrimmages, the MHSAA is hoping that keeping teams from mixing prior to the beginning of competition gives it the best chance of completing the fall sports season.

“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,” said MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl. “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.”

The decision on football, soccer and volleyball will be made based on the coronavirus spread 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 allows for limited indoor activity, while the rest are in Phase 4 and unable to host indoor training, practice or competition,” the MHSAA said in its press release Wednesday.

The start of volleyball season will be based on the reopening of schools. Volleyball teams may practice outside if school are not allowed to reopen by Aug. 12.

The MHSAA also has 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 and include coverage of the following topics on its website:

  • Protocol for reporting COVID-19 infections.
  • Guidance on face coverings. Athletes participating on the field/court are not required to wear face coverings, but are allowed to do so. However, bench personnel must wear face coverings at all times.
  • Transportation, use of locker rooms and facility cleaning.

“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.”

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