Late last summer Mark Uyl and the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) promised to do everything in their power to ensure that high school athletes would have the opportunity to compete in all three seasons this school year. “Our goal going back to last year was three seasons that all reached the finish line,” said Mark Uyl last Friday at the girls state basketball tournament. At various times it looked like they were not going to be able to keep that promise. Several shutdowns gave us all pause as we struggled to keep the virus in check.
Through it all the MHSAA remained focused on providing the opportunity for student athletes. At times it required a novel approach. Volleyball and football in January, not ideal, but the game is the game. When those seasons came to a conclusion in Battle Creek at Detroit almost two months late did anyone care? The kids got to play and one season was in the books.
The winter season felt like a sprint. Three basketball games in a week? Sure it caused some logistical problems, but is anybody still upset about it? Were they ever? At least the kids got to play. Two seasons completed with champions crowned in every sport.
Many schools kicked off their spring sports seasons last week. Gladwin High School played three baseball and softball games and one soccer game before taking this week off to comply with Governor Whitmer’s request to pause all high school and youth sports activities. Beaverton was not so lucky. The district was forced to postpone/cancel multiple games last week due to a local outbreak.
MHSAA Executive Director discussed the Governor’s request in several different venues last weekend. On Friday on the syndicated radio show, The Huge Show, he outlined the organizations stance. He said, “we have followed every executive order and will continue to follow what we are required to do by law, but the orders have not changed.” Local communities and school districts will be allowed to make the play or pause decision.
With the imminent completion of the winter sports tournaments (last Friday) Uyl discussed the MHSAA’s thinking when it comes to spring sports. “We are not just rolling out the balls and telling the kids to play,” continued Uyl. “We have been trying to do all the right things going back to August.” He based their argument on three points.
1. The current order requires weekly testing, so all athletes are testing once a week.
2. Every sport has an extensive set of protocols designed to keep everyone safe.
3. All spring sports are outside and includes the sports with the least amount of physical contact.
He also used Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) statistics to support the decision made by the MHSAA to leave the decision up to local schools. He indicated that over 55,000 high school athletes competed in the winter sports season. The MDHHS reported that 1081 of them tested positive during the January through mid-April season. That is a positivity rate of 1.9 percent. He said, “while the pace and numbers for the state overall are concerning the rate among high school athletes much lower than the population as a whole.”
The MHSAA feels that it is not the games and practices that are causing the rise in infections. It’s not even the schools; it’s what is going on outside of these activities and school that is causing the spike in infections. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press Uyl said, “Where I feel like it’s a different dynamic for us a 7 o’clock tomorrow night (following the last basketball game of the year), we don’t do a thing indoors the rest of the school year.” He went on to say, “ certainly the non-school sports world continues to do a lot of different stuff indoors. But with the weekly testing and with us being all outdoors, that’s why we’re going to continue to play.”
My hope is that by early June we are watching the state baseball and softball playoffs and anticipating the spring season crossing the finish line.