Photo: MLive

High school football practice in Michigan is slated to begin on Aug. 10, while all other fall sports will begin on practicing on Aug. 12.

   The Michigan High School Athletic Association announced July 17 that its member schools will begin the 2020-21 school year playing fall sports as traditionally scheduled, but with contingency concepts for potential interruptions due to the spread of COVID-19.

   The MHSAA representative council, the association’s 19-member legislative body, met virtually with MHSAA staff on July 15 to discuss a series of ideas for playing sports beginning in August. The council will meet again July 29 for further discussion. Currently, high school football practices are scheduled to begin Aug. 10, with all other fall sports to start practice Aug. 12.

   The MHSAA is moving forward with a plan that first calls for all fall sports to be started and played as scheduled. However, if the situation deems it necessary, the start of some or all fall sports practices or competitions could be delayed. The next step in the plan’s progression calls for lower-risk fall sports that can be played to be completed, with higher-risk fall sports postponed until later in the school year. If all fall sports must be suspended, they will be rescheduled during a reconfigured calendar that would see winter sports begin in November followed by the conclusion of fall and spring seasons potentially extending into July 2021.

   Additionally, the council considered a concept that would swap traditional fall and spring sports, but determined that was not a feasible plan. Football, girls volleyball, girls swimming and diving and boys soccer during the fall are considered moderate or high-risk sports because they include athletes in close contact or are played indoors; they were considered the impetus for potentially switching all fall sports to spring. But traditional spring sports – girls soccer and girls and boys lacrosse – carry similar risk, negating the value of making that full season switch. Moving only selected spring sports, like all low-risk to fall, was not considered sound because it would force student-athletes to pick between sports they’ve previously played.

   Plans remain reliant on 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 allow for limited indoor activity, while the rest are in Phase 4 and unable to host indoor training, practice or competition. This means that girls swimming and diving, volleyball and boys water polo (a non-MHSAA  sanctioned sport) will not be able to be played until the state reached Phase 5.

   “Our student-athletes just want to play, and we’ve gone far too long without them playing. But doing so safely, of course, remains the priority,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “Our plan moving forward is fall in the fall, starting on time. We’re excited to continue moving forward to bring back sports safely. It’s important for keeping students in our schools and keeping students in our sports programs.

   “We remain grateful to the governor for the opportunity to build the schedule and policies for returning sports to schools. We will continue to support her directives and those of the state and local health departments as we work to create the safest environment for all involved in our activities.”

   The MHSAA staff is building COVID-19-related policies for all fall sports and will make those guidelines and precautions available to member schools as the season approaches. Those policies will follow up what was presented to schools for summer offseason training, which began June 1 across the state and has seen thousands of student-athletes participate.

    "Governor Whitmer has consistently said that she is monitoring the data to make decisions that protect the health and safety of Michiganders," said her press representative Robert Luddy. "In order to increase the likelihood of sports resuming in the fall, we have teamed up with head coaches at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University to encourage Michiganders to wear a mask or face covering. However, if we see a second wave of COVID-19 coming, the Michigan High School Athletic Association will need to be nimble and prepared to dial back to reduce the spread of this deadly disease.”

 

Key upcoming dates:

July 29: MHSAA representative council meeting to make final decisions on fall high school sports plans.

August 10: Scheduled first day of high school football practice in Michigan.

August 12: Scheduled first day of practice in all other sports in Michigan.

August 19: First contests allowed in girls golf and boys tennis.

August 21: First contests allowed in boys and girls cross country, boys soccer, girls swimming and diving, and volleyball.

August 27: First scheduled high school football game.

Michigan's 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap: Athletics

Phases 1-3

Spreading to flattening

Phases 1-3

Spreading to flattening

Phase 4

Improving

Phase 4

Improving

Phase 5

Containing

Phase 5

Containing

Phase 6

Post pandemic

Phase 6

Post pandemic

Pandemic status

>  The number of new cases and deaths has fallen for a period of time, but overall case levels are

still high.

> Most new outbreaks are quickly identified, traced, and contained due to robust testing infrastructure and rapid contact tracing.

> Health system capacity can typically handle these new outbreaks, and therefore case

fatality rate does not rise above typical levels.

> The overall number of infected individuals still indicate the need for distancing to stop transmission and move to the next phase.

 

School operating status

>  In-person instruction is permitted with required safety protocols.

 

Athletics status

>  All outdoor athletics are allowed with safety precautions. The fall indoor sports of volleyball, girls swimming and diving, and boys water polo are not allowed in this phase.

 

Athletics safety guidelines

Required

> Comply with all guidance published by Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

> Students, teachers, and staff must use proper hand hygiene techniques before and after every practice, event, or other gathering. Every participant should confirm that they are healthy and without any symptoms prior to any event.

> All equipment must be disinfected before and after use.

> Inter-school competitions may be held provided that, facial coverings are worn if school transportation is provided. Buses must be cleaned and disinfected before and after every use.

> Spectators are allowed provided that facial coverings are used by observers and six feet of social distancing can be maintained at all times. Attention must given to entry and exit points to prevent crowding.

> Each participant must use a clearly marked water bottle for individual use. There should be no sharing of this equipment.

> Handshakes, fist bumps, and other unnecessary contact must not occur.

> Indoor weight rooms and physical conditioning activities that require shared equipment are suspended. Outdoor physical conditioning activities are allowed while maintaining social distancing.

> Large scale indoor spectator events are suspended. Large scale outdoor spectator or stadium events are limited to 100 people, and people not part of the same household must maintain six feet of distance from one another.

Pandemic status

> Post pandemic.

> Few, if any, active COVID-19 cases locally.

> Community spread not expected to return.

> Sufficient community immunity and availability of treatment.

 

School operating status

> Schools open for in-person instruction with no required COVID-19-related safety protocols.

 

Athletics status

>  All athletics are allowed with with no required COVID-19-related safety protocols.

Pandemic status

> Community spread of the virus is increasing and substantial.

> There is concern about health system capacity.

> Testing and tracing efforts may not be sufficient to control the spread of the pandemic.

 

School operating status

>  No in-person instruction, remote only.

 

Athletics status

>  All athletics are suspended.

 

Pandemic status

> New cases and deaths continue to decrease for an additional period of time.

> At this point, the number of active cases has reached a point where infection from other members of the community is less common.

> With widespread testing, positivity rates often fall much lower than earlier phases.

> Rapid case investigation, contact tracing, and containment strategies cause new cases to continue to fall.

 

School operating status

> Schools open for in-person instruction with minimal required safety protocols.

 

Athletics status

>  All indoor and outdoor athletics are allowed with minimal required safety protocols.

 

Athletics safety guidelines

Strongly recommended

> Indoor spectator events are limited to 50 people. Large scale outdoor spectator or stadium events are limited to 250 people. Spectators not part of the same household must always maintain six feet of distance from one another.

> Students, teachers, and staff must use proper hand hygiene techniques before and after every practice, event, or other gathering.

> Every participant should confirm that they are healthy and without any symptoms prior to any event.

> All equipment must be disinfected before and after use.

> Buses must be cleaned and disinfected before and after every use.

> Each participant should use a clearly marked water bottle for individual use. There should be no sharing of this equipment.

 

Recommended

> Indoor weight rooms and physical conditioning activities are allowed. Social distancing of six feet between participants should be maintained while indoors and sharing equipment should be avoided.

> Handshakes, fist bumps, and other unnecessary contact should not occur.