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MHSAA adds offseason football practice dates, hopes to have spring season set-up settled by mid-September

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, August 20, 2020, 5:31 pm

While the Michigan High School Athletic Association didn’t walk back its decision to postpone the fall football season to the spring, its Representative Council did at least attempt to address some of the secondary issues that were being attributed to the move.

Acknowledging the danger of increasing levels of depression for athletes unable to socialize with their team and teammates, given, the MHSAA announced Thursday that football players and spring sports athletes would be allowed 16 days of contact with coaches for voluntary practices throughout the fall. 

“What they’ll be able to do is continue to get their kids ready. We’ve heard, since we had to postpone the competitive part of the season, what we’ve heard is all the (potential) mental health issues, and ‘How can we keep kids together?’ And ‘How can we continue to make sure that our kids have access to football coaches?’” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said in his radio appearance on “The Huge Show” Wednesday afternoon.

“Part of it is the sports part of it, and a bigger part of it is just that connection to a group. We’re in a time where we just have to kind of support each other here, and that’s something that we heard loud and clear from our schools.”

[RELATED: MHSAA approves start of competition for volleyball, boys soccer, girls swimming in two regions; rest of state still awaiting clarification from governor’s office] 

The additional football practice time is limited to dates between Aug. 24 and Oct. 31, while the spring sports are Sept. 8 to Oct. 31. After Nov. 1, sport-specific training is limited to four athletes and one coach, while coaches may continue to conduct conditioning workouts with an unlimited number of kids. 

Those football practices are limited to players from a single school, however, which seems to quash the likelihood of 7 on 7-type tournaments during the school year. 

“With more guidance coming over the next week, there should be more information about football activities in general, whether it deals with youth, whether it deals with middle school-aged kids, and if it even tries to deal with some of the non-school football that might try to crop up,”Uyl said. “We’ll see how next week goes with that information that we get from our state government leaders.”

The Representative Council also reaffirmed the rule that limits players to one football season per school year, to head off questions about players potentially leaving the state to play fall football elsewhere, then returning to play here in the spring.

“And that’s not a new rule — that’s been a rule for a long time, that you get one football season in a school year. What it would do for kids that try to move out of state and play somewhere else this fall — if those seasons are able to happen — you couldn’t then come back and have a second one,” Uyl said. “Nor could kids who happen to live in other states where they might play football this fall, then think ‘Well, let’s move to Michigan in the spring, so we get a second season.’ Again, that’s not a new rule, but just something in this communication with our schools — it was just a question that needed to be answered, before folks enquired about it.”

The next step in the process will be for the MHSAA to sit down with the football coaches association and hammer out what exactly the season will look like. 

“I guess let me talk about the process of how this will go. We have talked about concepts with our full board, with the Representative Council. Our next step is that we’re going to put together a small group of our staff, the leadership of our Michigan High School Football Coaches Association — we have a great relationship overall with that group, and their leadership will be at the table as these discussions take place. Then also we’ll have a couple of members of our board, we’ll get together a small, ad hoc group. This is going to happen quickly, within the next probably two weeks. We want to come up with two plans, two different ways to do it, and then our next step would be to take it out to our schools and get their feedback. You figure two weeks for our small group to start on that, and another week for feedback for our schools, and hopefully we’d be ready to have a plan, and put that in place by the middle — or at the absolute latest by the end — of September. Because I think it’s important for people to know the plan,” said Uyl, who has spoken about what the spring football might look like in previous appearances. 

“And, by the way, no plan will be perfect. What we’re trying to do is thread that needle, trying to find the right window to where it can give kids that great experience that it needs to, with the number of games, also be able to have some kind of a culminating season event, but certainly doing so without really impacting winter and spring. As you put this down on paper, there’s going to be some impact, but I think there’s a way we can do this, and keep all three of those seasons as happy as we can, just based on weather and the geography that we have to deal with. I’m not even going to speculate yet on what those could look like, but first it needs to start with our coaches’ association leadership at the table. It then goes to our schools for their review and feedback, and then once we have that plan in place, I’m sure we can dive into the details a few weeks down the road.”

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RELATED READING:

MHSAA approves start of competition for volleyball, boys soccer, girls swimming in two regions; rest of state still awaiting clarification from governor’s office (Aug. 20)

Announcement from MHSAA on fate of volleyball, swimming and soccer postponed (Aug. 19)

• MHSAA’s Uyl explains decision to postpone football: ‘What we were getting from our schools … was really to pump the brakes’  (Aug. 17)

MHSAA pulls plug on fall football, announcing decision to move it to the spring (Aug. 14)

College cancellations won’t force MHSAA’s hand, executive director Mark Uyl says; ‘Don’t make decisions just because somebody else did’ (Aug. 12)

Lansing School District cancels fall extracurricular activities, including athletics (Aug. 7)

MHSAA Representative Council gives thumbs-up to on-time start for lower-risk fall sports, tables decision on competition for high-risk sports (July 29)

• MHSAA announces plan to begin 2020-21 school year as traditionally scheduled, leaving football (for now) in the fall (July 17)

• For now, plan is still to have fall sports in the fall, MHSAA reassures its membership (July 2)

What does the ‘MI Safe Schools’ return to school roadmap say about high school sports? Here’s a look (July 1)

Gov. Whitmer to MHSAA: Consider moving contact sports back from the fall (June 30)

• New allowance from from governor’s office doesn’t change much: Schools allowed to resume sports activities prior to end of 2019-20 school year (June 12)

• MHSAA updates guidelines, allowing northern Michigan schools to move workouts indoors starting Wednesday (June 9)

• MHSAA adjusts to curveball of early lifting of stay-at-home order, amends guidance doc for reopening sports  (June 2)

• Gov. Whitmer lifts stay-at-home order early, providing increasing clarity on ‘when’ high school sports can resume (June 1)

• MHSAA releases ‘Guidance for Opening School Sports’ document, outlining a roadmap of ‘how’ high school sports can resume in Michigan (May 29)

• Friday’s roadmap from MHSAA will give ‘how’ school athletics will return, but maybe not ‘when’: ‘We still can’t rush this’ (May 28)

• MHSAA gives schools heads up that ‘Guidance for Opening School Sports’ is coming next week (May 22)

• Q&A with MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl, after Friday’s decision to cancel remaining 2019-20 sports seasons (April 3)

• MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl explains agonizing decision to cancel remainder of winter and spring seasons; ‘My heart absolutely breaks for kids in the class of 2020’ (April 3)

• MHSAA officially cancels spring and winter sports, putting an end to the 2019-20 athletic year (April 3)

• Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces closure of Michigan schools for remainder of 2019-20, stipulates K-12 sports are suspended ‘while state of emergency … is in effect’ (April 2)

• With Gov. Whitmer reportedly set to close Michigan schools for remainder of academic year, can cancellation of high school sports be far behind?  (March 30)

• ‘What now?’ and ‘What next?’: A look at how Michigan’s prep athletes are coping with the ‘pause’ of the postseason, and what it might theoretically take to ‘unpause’ (March 17)

• MHSAA extends halt of athletic activities to include practices, scrimmages until at least April 5(March 13)

• MHSAA puts postseason on pause due to concerns over COVID-19 (March 12)

• UPDATED: MHSAA postseasons impacted by coronavirus; games put on pause, postponed indefinitely (March 11)