LANSING, MI – So many urgent questions, so few definitive answers.
With the high school athletic season on an indefinite wait pattern – throwing both winter and spring sports for a loop – athletes, coaches and fans across the state must ponder the unknown .
The Michigan High School Athletic Association has halted all activities until at least April 5 due to the coronavirus threat. No one knows how the COVID-19 pandemic is going to play out, no one knows how much or for how long the sports preparedness scene is going to be affected.
But questions abound. So MLive reached out to MHSAA spokesperson John Johnson to answer some frequently asked questions regarding the state of high school sport. Understanding that so much can change overnight in an uncertain climate, Johnson has provided his current best answers in the Q&A below.
Q: Is there any hope of resuming winter sports?
A: “There is always hope. With so much surrounding these circumstances beyond our control, we will take our lead from the state government and our other partners, if and when school resumes.
“We hope that each championship can be contested. Whether that happens in April, May or June, all options remain on the table. “
Q: Why couldn’t the winter sports championships take place without spectators?
A: “The decision to suspend came in a lightning day. Every facet of the world was changing from minute to minute. We went from limiting spectators in the morning to not playing in the afternoon. At the end of the day, it’s all about health and safety and limiting exposure. The more time and space we put between ourselves, the more time and space we put between ourselves and this virus. “
Q: Will the championships be awarded in winter sports that are not completed and, if not, how will they be named in the record books?
A: “You can only recognize someone as a champion when they do it between the lines. Trying to speculate on who would win would be as unprecedented as these days. You have to play the games. It won’t be any different from 1943, when they didn’t play state tournaments because of WWII. (The record book simply says “No final.”)
Q: If schools are closed, will sports automatically be suspended?
Q: When can teams resume their activities for spring sports?
A: “As soon as the schools resume their lessons. Spring training had already started and many scrums had already taken place before the governor’s shutdown date. There is no reason to believe that if school starts on April 6 as scheduled, spring sports cannot be back on the field on the same day.
Q: Is there a deadline when the spring sports will be canceled if the activity has not resumed?
A: “It’s a difficult call. There were brutal springs, where the weather was so bad that the teams didn’t come out and only play in May. So there is still time. But if it’s decided that the kids can’t go back to school on April 6 and that gets pushed back, things start to get scary once you move in in May.
“Like everyone else, we have to stay nimble with this. Once we have a specific return (to school) date, then we can make decisions.
Q: Who will make the decisions and on what contributions will they be based?
A: “We will follow the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and the Governor’s office. We will listen to our partner organizations, like the Michigan Association of School Boards and the Association of Superintendents and the Association of Principals, and observe what other states are doing. We will have an open ear to whatever is happening.
“The representative council will be involved as well as our leaders. Everything will not be decided within the walls of our office.
Q: Are schools and teams required to follow MHSAA mandates?
Q: Can spring sports tournaments be postponed to get a season?
A: “All options are on the table right now. Our goal is to keep the spring tournaments as planned. Even as the regular season gets shorter, we want to do what we can to save the last 17 (tournament) days.
Q: Any reason the regular spring sports season cannot be played in the summer?
A: “What we hear from schools is that the later you push activities back into June, the harder it is to keep control of student-athletes, especially senior graduates. If it happens later in the summer, you find yourself in all kinds of activities, like a family vacation that is planned. So it’s not as easy as it may seem.
Q: Can an athlete compete for a non-school team of the same sport while school sports are suspended?
A: “Different sports have different rules about this, so I would advise each player to look at the rules of their sport. If you trained with your team (high school) and then play for someone else, you could be in violation.
Q: Can players get together on their own to train, practice or practice?
A: “They can but it would not be advisable. Think about what we are called to do for our country. Stay away to minimize the chance of spreading this virus. Getting a group of kids together in a city park might seem harmless, but you don’t know where everyone has been. They could catch this virus and then come home and pass it on to grandma. It’s just not a good idea. Sport can wait.
“All we ask everyone is to do safe things, to do smart things.”