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Michigan high school athletes, coaches anxious for game plan from state amid COVID restrictions

Michigan virus restrictions impacting high school sports slated to expire Dec. 8

Michigan’s “three-week pause” is set to expire on Dec. 8, meaning fall high school sports could wrap up and make way for winter sports.

But what happens if the state’s coronavirus restrictions are extended?

High school coaches and teams are eager to get back to playing -- especially at Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School, where the football team was three wins away from a state title.

MLK’s head football coach Tyrone Spencer says since the state’s “pause,” the team has been holding Zoom calls and watching films in preparation for the rest of the season.

The Michigan High School Athletics Association (MHSAA) recently released dates for regionals, semi finals and final competitions, and the MLK Crusaders are ready to compete. But coaches say that if restrictions affecting high school sports are extended further than Dec. 8, fall teams likely won’t be able to finish their seasons this year.

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“It’s definitely now or never,” Spencer said. “... for us at Martin Luther King, (we’d) have to move on to 2021.”

As for high school winter sports, wresting hasn’t yet begun. The coach at Detroit Catholic Central High School says the athletes have been working outside in the interim, and that they feel safe competing this year with some changes.

Detroit Catholic Central wrestling coach Mitchel Hancock says that the team would minimize events to a maximum of four teams and only wrestle up to three opponents in one day.

Hancock is also the dean of students at Detroit Catholic Central, and he knows that safety is paramount. As the wrestling coach, Hancock believes the mental health of his athletes is also important. The coach says an extension of the state’s “pause,” or a new pause, would be difficult for him and his wrestlers.

So far, as of Dec. 4, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has not yet announced if the current restrictions will indeed expire on time, or if they will be extended.

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Related: Whitmer on possible extension of Michigan COVID restrictions: ‘Bottom line is, do the people do their part?’

The MHSAA says they are proceeding with the premise that they will be able to resume sports next week. They plan to forge ahead with the competitions as scheduled, but said they will reconvene and determine next steps if the restrictions are extended.

If restrictions aren’t extended, fall and winter sports teams would be allowed to resume practices on Dec. 9. Swimming, diving, volleyball and football teams would then be able to finish up their fall seasons over the next few weeks.

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