NOVAK: Sports teams get to work while two await word

It was great to get back to work last week, nearly six months after sports were suspended by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

It was great seeing all the happy faces on the players. It was great to reconnected with the coaches I have not seen, some for nearly a year. It was great to be greeted by sunshine and warm temperatures.

I did not know what to expect when I headed over to Orchard Hills Country Club to cover the Edwardsburg at Niles girls golf match. I knew golf was one of the sports that plenty of people got a chance to take part in over the summer, but you never know how that is going to translate into competition.

The girls were ready. They were excited. Although not everyone played up to their potential, it was the first match of the season. There is plenty of time for improvement before the state playoffs begin in October.

Tennis players also had an opportunity to work on their game over the summer. They were not allowed to gather in large groups, but you could see that many of them had been on the courts the past few months preparing for their season.

It was exciting to see Brandywine picked up a victory on its new home courts at the high school. I can remember when I first covered a Dowagiac at Brandywine match back in the 1980s. There were two courts at the high school and four more at Firemen’s Park.

Boy, how things have changed. The courts are beautiful and well-done. Brandywine should be proud when other schools come to Niles to play them. Between the courts on the corner and the new auxiliary gym, Brandywine High School has an entire new look to it.

As excited as I was to get out and cover high school sports, I got an equal dose of disappointment as the MHSAA did not announce that boys soccer and volleyball could begin competition as many thought they would last Thursday.

I guess I should be at least grateful that the MHSAA did not move those sports to the spring as of yet. I am also grateful that they did not cancel fall sports all together. Those rumors began circulating Wednesday night and continued into Thursday morning. The state did say that we are moving forward with tennis, golf and cross country in the fall.

The state said it would have a decision on soccer and volleyball this week. The MHSAA is awaiting the state to reopen gymnasiums and swimming pools. Currently, Berrien and Cass counties are in Phase 4 of the reopening plan and need to be at Phase 5 before we can move forward with those final two sports.

One thing that is going to be tough to get used to is no spectators at many events. I know the athletic directors are going to have their hands full making that rule stick. I saw plenty of parents trying to work their way around the rule in order to see their sons and daughters compete.

Many events are saying spectators will not be allowed to watch sporting events. From the Three Rivers Big Hill Cross County Invitational, which was on Tuesday, to the Four Winds Invitational coming up Labor Day weekend at Blackthorn Golf Club in South Bend. Likewise, there will be no fans for the RedBud National I and RedBud National II in Buchanan over Labor Day weekend.

I would ask that people please respect these requests. I know it is hard, especially for senior parents, to not get a chance to see their children compete. But maybe, just maybe, if we do this for a couple of events, the state will relax the requirements, and spectators will once again be allowed back into sports venues.

Until then, we here at Leader Publications will continue to provide the most comprehensive coverage of local high school sports. You can count on us to get out to as many events as possible and get results from those events online at leaderpub.com as quickly as possible.

I look forward to seeing what the rest of the fall brings us. I am hoping that volleyball and soccer get the green light this week to begin competition.

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com.

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