Sports community making their voices heard
Contact winter sports are still on hold
BALDWIN - It's February and still no high school basketball and hockey games of wrestling or cheer meets.
Could that change this week, or maybe next?
The Michigan High School Athletic Association is trying to convince the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services there is no reason not to let those sports teams start playing. Right now, the noncontact goes through Feb. 21.
At his virtual press conference on Friday, MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said he was heartened by the efforts of Let Them Play supporters and others to get immediate approval to play.
So are some local coaches.
"I think the Let Them Play group is having an effect," Evart's girls basketball coach Matt Tiedt said.
Let Them Play had a rally with thousands of athletes at the state capital in Lansing on Saturday to urge Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the MDHHS to allow winter contact sports to proceed immediately.
Local athletes were among those who participated.
"I was so proud of all the student athletes of Michigan today," Big Rapids girls basketball coach Jessica Haist wrote on a Facebook post.
"Overall, I think the folks within the sports community are pretty reasonable people," Uyl said. "I think we all understood, going back to last November when (COVID) numbers were escalating and skyrocketing, why a pause had to be made. We're responsible people here. We're an organization led and governed by educators. We're in this work in what's best for kids. Health and safety is the No. 1 topic that has to come up. Whenever when you talk about health and safety, certainly mitigating as much COVID risk is a part of that conversation.
"I thought the most powerful voices came from students as well. It's about health and safety. Mental health is a big key component as well. You look at what our numbers are and you look at what's going on at other states. School-based sports has not been the super spreader events. It wasn't in our experience in the fall and with what other states are doing in the winter. That data simply is not there."
Uyl added: "Our kids are showing incredible leadership and showing an incredible civil duty to where they are trying to hold our government leaders accountable to give us those answers on what are the numbers which prevent us from playing currently and what do they have to look like to have us moving forward. I thought our young people won the day."
Although winter sports have had their seasons expanded for a few weeks, with basketball going into early April, spring starting and ending dates have not yet been changed by the MHSAA.
Uyl was asked about the possible impact on spring sports considering the prevailing circumstances.
"That's a good question and one to which we don't have a definite answer to yet," Uyl said. "The start of spring sports, we're now about a month and a half out when the first published day of spring sports practice begins. The reality is we need to see exactly when winter sports can start. Once we know when the start date is we can set the end date in terms of the tournament experience and then be able to finalize what the spring calendar will look like as well."
Uyl called better communication with new MDHHS officials "a huge step in the right direction."
Some groups are taking legal action against the state for not allowing certain sports to participate. Uyl was asked if the MHSAA has considered taking action against the state. He noted in the past, such action taken by various groups has not been successful. He said he's focusing on the state looking at the current data.
"Our goal going back to July has been three seasons," Uyl said. "We still have the opportunity to do that. I realize the runway winter sports has on starting and ending is a lot different. Don't forget, we finished some fall sports in January, two months later than they were scheduled to end."
Uyl noted the MHSAA gave spring sports teams 16 days in the fall for workout and intrasquad scrimmages.