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MHSAA approves plan for the phased return of 2020 fall sports

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MHSAA approves plan for the phased return of 2020 fall sports. (WWMT/File)

The Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association approved a plan July 29, 2020, to phase in fall sports.

Sports at a lower risk of spreading COVID-19, such as tennis, cross country and swimming and diving could start practice on Aug. 12, 2020 and begin competitions Aug. 19 and Aug. 21. Sports at a higher risk of spreading COVID-19, such as football, volleyball and soccer, could start practice, but not competition. The decision for competition would be made by Aug. 20.

“The Council, reflecting on the positive impact on their athletes this summer from taking part in off-season training, feels it’s of utmost importance to continue athletic activity moving forward,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “If we take a month off, our students will find opportunities to compete through non-school entities that may not be as focused on safety. Our athletic directors and coaches can provide the safest-possible environment to return to sports, and this phased-in approach to competition will help schools continue building on progress already made.

Devin Porter, Charles Wilks and Tyler Stolsky are friends and teammates at Portage Central High School.

"It's been a little weird being spaced out. I can’t go and hit or mess with anybody anymore at practice. But we still practice and train hard," said Porter.

They have been forced to play catch in their backyards due COVID-19 canceling practice and game play.

"I miss mostly just being able to play. At our speed and agility and football camps we have to be spaced out obvious because of the virus going around. We are socially distancing and trying to stay safe so no one gets the virus," Wilks said.

Football practice with full pads would be delayed until Aug. 17, but the week of Aug. 10 could include conditioning, physical training and skill work with nothing but helmets.

Stolsky said just because practice is cancelled doesn't mean training to stop.

He said most of all, he misses the bond with his teammates.

"We just kind of grew up in football and I played with all of these kids when I was younger. This is like a brotherhood to me. This is more than just a game this is my family," said Stolsky.

Boys’ soccer and girls’ volleyball could start practices on Aug. 12.

Scrimmages for all fall sports have been canceled by the MHSAA.

The MHSAA posted guidance for each sport on their website.

The guidance includes precautions that apply to all sports, such as:

  • Protocol for reporting COVID-19 infections.
  • Guidance on face coverings. Athletes participating on the field/court are not required to wear face coverings, but are allowed to do so. However, bench personnel must wear face coverings at all times.
  • Transportation, use of locker rooms and facility cleaning.

“The Council chose to make these adjustments to help ensure our athletes have a safe regular season this fall. As we continue to solidify the regular season, we can then turn our attention to building a safe postseason for our athletes,” Uyl said.

The 2019-2020 sports season was canceled in April.