Some fall high school sports may see their first games delayed, according to an announcement the MHSAA made Wednesday afternoon that marks the organization’s first tweaks to the fall sports schedule to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The Representative Council approved a plan that postpones the first full-pads football practice date to Aug. 17 and — for now — prohibits competition in that sport as well as volleyball and boys soccer, both deemed “high-risk” sports due to their potential for spreading COVID-19.
“Low-risk” sports, including cross-country, golf and tennis, may begin practice as scheduled on Aug. 12 and begin competition as scheduled.
Football teams will be allowed to gather starting on Aug. 10, the original first football practice date, but the use of full pads is prohibited until a week later. Helmets are permitted. (Normally, full pads would have been permitted starting on Aug. 12.)
The football practice date is the only concrete change to the MHSAA’s schedule announced Wednesday, but volleyball and soccer, while they may begin practice on the originally scheduled date of Aug. 12, also cannot begin game action for now. The original first allowed date of competition in those sports was Aug. 19. The MHSAA said decisions on competition timelines in those three sports will come no later than Aug. 20.
The MHSAA also announced that limitations will be in place on how many teams or competitors are permitted at multi-team invitationals this fall. No more than four teams will be permitted at a site in soccer, tennis and volleyball; no more than 72 athletes may compete in a golf invitational; and no more than 70 runners are permitted in a cross-country race.
Spectator attendance will also be limited, per Gov. Whitmer’s restrictions on public gatherings.
As part of Wednesday’s announcement, the MHSAA also released guidance documents for each sport which outline recommended precautions and adjustments to combat the spread of COVID-19. These documents are available at the MHSAA website under each sport’s individual page.
“The easy way out would be to postpone all activity to next spring, and we are not taking the easy way out. But we will make wise decisions based on medical guidance,” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said in a press release. “We will make these difficult decisions quickly and appropriately. If we don’t play this fall, it won’t be because we didn’t make every effort to do so.”