BALDWIN – During a normal sports season, Baldwin boys basketball coach JJ Eads would be in his third week of practice getting his team ready to start the regular season.

This, of course, has been anything but a normal season.

Eads and other basketball coaches will be waiting to hear from the state health department on Dec. 8 or 9 next week to see if the three-week pause of various activities, including high school athletics, will be extended because of the COVID pandemic or if teams can begin their practices for a season which would start the week of Jan. 4.

“I’ve been contacting (players) through emails and texts and we had a (virtual) meeting last week for kids who could make it,” Eads said. “We’re doing the best we can trying to stay in touch with them to stay on top of their grades and that type of thing.

“We tell them to go out and stay active, and if it’s nice enough to go out and put some shots up if they can. They’re kind of on their own and I can tell them to stay in shape.”

Rising COVID numbers could interfere with the winter schedule.

“Hopefully we’ll have a season,” Eads said. “The odds are against athletics right now for high school kids.”

The MHSAA has made plans to finish the fall playoffs this month and resume winter sports practices on Dec. 9 with a competition start date of Jan. 4 if the pause is lifted next week. MHSAA spokesman Geoff Kimmerly said on Monday the association is hopeful of a favorable announcement next week.

“As of right now we don’t know what is coming in 10 days, but of course we are hoping for the best — both for our statewide infection rate and our chances of picking our seasons up again,” Kimmerly said.

The MHSAA representative council meets this Friday and may do planning in anticipation of the state health department’s decision.

“I’m sure we will present whatever we have as the most current information for our current shutdown and potential pickup,” Kimmerly said.

It’s also expected at Friday’s meeting the MHSAA will consider possible tournament adjustments necessary due to the shortened winter competition season.

“We understand where COVID numbers were trending, and that’s why we have been supportive of the order to pause,” Executive director Mark Uyl, said in a previous statement. “But these Fall sports deserve closure, and this strategy provides the best opportunities without further interruptions to a normal course of training and competition.

“A very small percentage of our teams remain active in our Fall tournaments, also limiting potential exposure to the virus across the state. Meanwhile, by waiting until January to begin winter competition, the Council is allowing our teams to continue activity but also restricting the mixing of communities to further promote reducing COVID spread.”