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No delays in the start of winter practices and competitions, MHSAA says

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, October 23, 2020, 1:12 pm

Despite the rising COVID-19 case numbers across the state, there will be no delay in the start of winter sports practices and competitions, the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced Friday afternoon. 

The MHSAA’s Representative Council met Thursday and hammered out the decision, along with guidelines — limiting competitors and spectators — for the winter sports.

“The Council believes it is safer to begin Winter practices on time, and keep athletes in school programs where safety precautions are always in effect,” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said in a news release. “With the vastly different circumstances faced by schools in different regions all over the state, an on-time start still allows schools to decide when they feel most comfortable beginning activity — and allows all of them to slowly ramp up their frequency of activity and numbers of spectators attending competitions.

“But let’s be clear: Our statewide COVID-19 numbers have to get better. In order for our schools to continue playing sports this winter, and in order for fans to be there to cheer them on, we must continue working to slow down this virus.” 

Scrimmages have been ruled out for winter sports, as they were in the fall, and a maximum of four competing teams will be allowed at regular-season competitions for competitive cheer, gymnastics, swimming and diving, and wrestling. Skiing and bowling will both be restricted to 72 competitors per event. 

Basketball and hockey may only compete once per day. 

Two spectators per participating athlete will be allowed in to the indoor events, but the MHSAA said it would possibly reconsider the limits on crowds later in the winter season, while adhering to the emergency orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

“The guidance we have to follow is from Health and Human Services. There are a lot of well-intentioned people out there — I know I’ve gotten a lot of free legal advice after the state Supreme Court and the executive order situation was ongoing. Unless folks out there have a law degree, I’m really good in terms of the legal input and advice, in terms of what we have to follow, in terms of masks and limitations,” Uyl said in Wednesday’s appearance on “The Huge Show” radio program. “Our Health and Human Services is run by professional medical people, and that’s the guidance we’ll continue to follow, moving ahead.”

Face coverings must be worn by athletes in sports — basketball, competitive cheer, hockey and wrestling — where social distancing cannot be maintained, but are not required while in competition for gymnastics, bowling, skiing and swimming and diving — although they are required for those athletes when not in active participation in the contest. 

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