MHSAA remains committed to winter sport season
BIG RAPIDS - The MHSAA issued a press release on Wednesday (Jan. 27) to reaffirm its commitment to play winter sports when current restrictions are lifted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
But "when" remains the key word.
Winter contact sports - girls and boys basketball, competitive cheer, ice hockey and wrestling - are allowed only for non-contact activities, per an MDHHS emergency order restricting contact activity and competition due to COVID-19.
Locally, bowling is the only sport sponsored five area schools which can compete.
The MDHHS limitations on winter contact sports were extended three weeks last week by MDHHS through Feb. 21.
"Each week, we see hundreds of examples of children and families competing in non-school competition, both in-state and out-of-state," MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said. "This not only is in violation of current MDHHS orders, but sending all of these families into different states will only become an impediment to getting students back in school fulltime.
"But we can contribute to students returning to in-person learning by allowing MHSAA member schools to begin full activities, participating locally and against more local competition, and under the guidance of trained, professional educators."
The MHSAA said, as of this week, winter contact sports had begun in 38 states, including Michigan's neighbors in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin.
The MHSAA points out it concluded its remaining fall tournaments with 11-Player Football Finals, volleyball, Lower Peninsula girls swimming & diving and 8-player football finals.
"All four were allowed to complete their seasons because those teams took part in the MDHHS rapid testing pilot program," the MHSAA release said. "Results of that program were overwhelmingly positive. A total of 5,376 individuals (athletes, coaches, team personnel, cheerleaders, etc.) were tested, and 57 - or 1 percent - tested positive at some point in the pilot. Nearly 30,000 rapid antigen tests were administered - and 99.8 percent were negative"
Area athletic directors have expressed their hope to be able to start a winter sports season very soon.
"We will continue to prepare our athletes while still abiding by the guidelines," Pine River athletic director Shawn Ruppert said. Hopefully, our patience will pay off and competition will begin soon. It obviously won't be a normal season, but anything will be welcome at this point."