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

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, August 20, 2020, 3:06 pm

After two days of meeting, the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Representative Council announced the results of its deliberation on going ahead with the moderate-risk sports of volleyball, boys soccer and girls swimming.

And it’s a split decision.

The regions of the state where indoor facilities are open — Regions 6 and 8; the northern-most tip of the Lower Peninsula and all of the Upper Peninsula — may begin competition in those sports on schedule, starting Friday.

The rest? Still waiting, and practicing outdoors. 

The MHSAA’s news release indicated that the association was prepared to go ahead with competition in those three sports in all regions, pending resolution of questions in a pair of conflicting executive orders from the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office — resolution that has not yet come.

And a decision on those sports for Regions 1-5 and 7 won’t be forthcoming until that resolution is received. 

MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said both in his appearance on “The Huge Show” Thursday afternoon, as well as the open guidance letter he penned to high schools Thursday, that an order addressing the clearances for those sports is expected next week. 

“Our Council has made clear it is ready to offer students these opportunities, pending approval from Governor Whitmer that we may do so,” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said in the news release. “We have been told that within a week, future guidance will address athletic issues that exist in current executive orders. We are awaiting that guidance.

“The MHSAA and Representative Council are committed to following all current and future Executive Orders and safety precautions. However, we need more answers before we can give all of our member schools the go-ahead to play each other again, and the majority of our schools are in regions that are not yet allowed to take part in volleyball, soccer and swim.”

Schools in Regions 6 and 8 may conduct volleyball events with spectators present, but the total number of in the facility must be either 250 people, — participants, officials, game personnel, media and fans combined — or 25 percent of the facility’s capacity, whichever is smaller. Pools are also limited to 25 percent of “the established bather capacity.”

Outdoor competitions in those two regions may have 500 people, or 25 percent of the facility’s capacity, whichever is smallest. 

In Uyl’s letter to schools, it noted that teams from Regions 1-5 and 7 could travel to Regions 6 and 8 and compete under the current limitations from the executive orders. 

The MHSAA also announced that football and spring sports may have an additional 16 contact days for voluntary practices involving only athletes from the same school. For football, these contact days must be scheduled between Aug. 24-Oct. 31, while spring sports (baseball, softball, girls soccer, track and field, girls and boys lacrosse, boys golf, Upper Peninsula girls golf, Lower Peninsula girls tennis, UP boys tennis), the practices must be scheduled between Sept. 8-Oct. 31. 

After Nov. 1, football and the spring sports may conduct skill work with a coach and up to four players, while an unlimited number of athletes may do conditioning work with coaches. 

The proposed calendar for integrating football into the spring schedule won’t be announced until after a later meeting of the Representative Council. 

The guidance letter also noted that sideline cheer — a sport that does not have an MHSAA postseason of its own — is allowed outdoors until the start of the preseason downtime for competitive cheer on Oct. 25.

“Our cheerleaders put in just as much work, in terms of conditioning and getting ready for the season, as what certainly other sports do, so they’re going to be able to continue their activities through the fall,” Uyl said in his appearance “The Huge Show” Thursday afternoon.

“That’s just yet another group of kids — if the school permits — that we’re allowing to get together with their coach, and to continue to practice, continue that emotional and social well-being.”

Middle school fall sports — with the exception of football — may begin on Monday, at the discretion of the school and leagues. 

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