Individual tackling dummies for each player on the football field during practice. Water fountains sitting idly to the side. Teams using multiple buses to travel, allowing athletes to maintain a safe, social distance.
It’s all part of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s plan to re-open high school athletics.
On Friday, the MHSAA and executive director Mark Uyl shared a 11-page document with members of the athletic community outlining the guidelines for schools looking to start practices and competitions when the state’s “Safer-at-Home” order is lifted. The order is currently scheduled to be lifted on June 12.
The first two pages of the document are a direct address from Uyl to the MHSAA community. In it, Uyl offers updates as to when and how the sports can be restarted once the order is lifted. He does so in two separate sections, one titled, “The “WHEN Update” and the other titled, “The HOW Updated.”
The following nine pages are comprised of the MHSAA and the National Federation of High School Sports’ outline for the steps that need to be taken by schools in order to allow sports to re-open. The final page of the document is an evaluation for designed to be used by coaches to monitor the health of his athletes.
The Big Rapids Daily News obtained a copy of the release. Here are some notable points within the “MHSAA/NFHS Guidance for Re-Opening School Sports” document:
The document consists of four sections: Points of Emphasis, Administrative Areas to Address, Summer Conditioning and Practice Sessions, and Contests, Games and Competitions.
- Points of Emphasis
- The first point of emphasis is a need for social distancing and face coverings to “decrease the spread of respiratory droplets.” The document advises that health departments should offer guidance to the athletic departments and that social distancing and face coverings will become the “new normal” when athletics begin again.
- The document recommends student athletes to wear face coverings in steps one and two of the re-opening plan and encourages the wearing of coverings in step three. Exceptions for wearing face coverings include swimming, distance running, and other forms of intense aerobic activity.
- In anticipation of a second wave this upcoming fall, schools within the MHSAA will be required to be prepared for the possibility of the cancellation of athletic events and isolation within the season.
- Administrative Areas to Address
- The MHSAA is allowing a one-year extension of an athlete’s physical due to the uncertainty of access to local doctors and physicians.
- In anticipation that many athletes are out of shape due to the long break that the nationwide quarantine has created, the MHSAA and NFHS are creating a consensus outline for fall sports practices that may be different from prior years.
- No spitting or touching of the face, with constant sanitizing and cleaning of equipment.
- No pre or post game handshake lines.
- Summer Conditioning and Practice Sessions:
- During steps one and two, all coaches and players participating in the workouts should be checked for symptoms of COVID-19. The monitoring form attached to the document is recommended to be used by the overseeing coach.
- Step one calls for no gatherings of larger than 10 people. The size limits for workouts in sections two and three are to be determined. No locker rooms are to be used during step one.
- During step one, basketball teams should not practice passing a single ball between teammates. In football, players cannot practice handoffs or passes and cannot share tackling dummies or blocking sleds. Additionally, baseball and softball players may not share bats, gloves, or play catch with a single ball. These restrictions lessen in steps two and three.
- Players should always bring their own water bottles and food.
- Water troughs and fountains are not allowed in steps one or two, but can be utilized in step three as long as they are cleaned between each use.
- Contests, Games and Competition
- Each sport offered at the high school level is categorized as either a high, moderate, or low risk sport. Football and wrestling are considered higher-risk, baseball and basketball fall as moderate, and running events and golf among the low-risk sports.
- Social distancing requirements will be required during the transportation to and from games as well, meaning that schools will likely need multiple buses to get to games.
- There are three tiers of those who could attend games. Tier one includes players, coaches, officials and essential staff. Tier two is comprised of the media, and tier three is made up of spectators. Only tiers one and two will be allowed to attend games until restrictions are lifted.