Officials from the Michigan High School Athletic Association have confirmed winter sports in the state will begin on time, with guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The Representative Council of the MHSAA confirmed during its meeting Thursday (Oct. 22) that 2020-21 winter sports will begin on time. The board also approved guidelines that schools must follow to limit the spread of COVID-19 during those sports.
Most high school sports traditionally begin practice the first three weeks of November, with games starting in mid-November and the first weeks of December.
Start dates for middle school winter sports seasons are determined by local leagues and conferences. Many are set to begin during the next few weeks.
Sport-specific guidelines for all Winter sports will be posted early next week to their respective sport pages on the MHSAA website, officials said.
A number of precautions have been put in place, including for competition limits, numbers of spectators allowed and face coverings. The guidance also specifically addresses equipment and facilities for each sport.
“The Council believes it is safer to begin Winter practices on time, and keep athletes in school programs where safety precautions are always in effect,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. "With the vastly different circumstances faced by schools in different regions all over the state, an on-time start still allows schools to decide when they feel most comfortable beginning activity – and allows all of them to slowly ramp up their frequency of activity and numbers of spectators attending competitions.
“But let’s be clear: Our statewide COVID-19 numbers have to get better. In order for our schools to continue playing sports this winter, and in order for fans to be there to cheer them on, we must continue working to slow down this virus.”
Scrimmages will not be allowed for winter sports to limit mixing of communities outside of official competitions. The numbers of teams at regular-season competitions also will be limited, with a maximum of four schools/teams allowed in competitive cheer, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling. Bowling and skiing competitions will be restricted to a maximum of 72 competitors at one event.
There are no school/team limits for basketball and ice hockey, because only two teams play at a time and those sports might play only one game per day -- with fans leaving after the game.
Host sites must strictly enforce spectator capacity limits on a game-by-game basis. Each participant is allowed to have two spectators per event.
Face coverings must be worn by athletes practicing and competing in basketball, competitive cheer, ice hockey and wrestling.
They are not required for athletes practicing and competing in bowling, gymnastics, skiing and swimming & diving, which all allow for appropriate social distancing -- but face coverings are required for those athletes when not involved in active participation.