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MHSAA shares guidelines for re-starting sports

EAST LANSING (AP) — The Michigan High School Athletic Association released a 10-page document Friday outlining the “how” of re-opening sports for the upcoming season.

Then “when” is still definitely in limbo.

Area athletic directors weighed in on the release, with reactions ranging from disappointed to optimistic as high school sports turns its attention to returning to the field when the coronavirus pandemic wanes.

“I was hoping for more,” Johannesburg-Lewiston athletic director Joe Smokevitch said. “I thought they didn’t give us much more than the NFHS gave us a couple weeks ago. It’s nice to have a starting point, but the starting point was the NFHS stuff two weeks ago.”

The National Federation of State High School Associations put out a similar set of guidelines May 19. The MHSAA said its guidelines were put together with concepts from the NFHS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Olympics & Paralympic Committee.

“It gives us the basics for having to get going again,” Petoskey athletic director Joel Dohm said. “It gives our kids, coaches and fans hope that something good is on its way in the coming months.”

The MHSAA re-opening guidance (which can be found in full at record-eagle.com/sports) contains suggestions for physicals, online safety courses, hygiene, cleaning facilities, hydration, screening, equipment and transportation.

“It’s a start,” Traverse City West athletic director Jason Carmien said. “We need to at least start somewhere, and this is a place to start.”

The document recommends social distancing on buses for away games, which would add extra costs for school and possibly force schools to rely on parents driving players separately.

“So much of what we’re experiencing right now is wait and see,” Traverse City Central athletic director Zac Stevenson said. “So it’s nice to see some clarity on what we have to do to get kids back on the field. … When the time is right, they’re ready to go.”

The MHSAA guidelines warn schools to prepare for second wave of the virus and be ready for the possibility of some schools having to shut down again.

“Whatever we have to do to slowly resume athletics, we will certainly do,” Carmien said. “Some of the things in the document, we’re going to need clarity on. Now we can begin asking those clarifying questions.”

No use of school facilities can occur until at least June 12, when the current “Safer-at-Home” order is set to expire. Coaches can conduct voluntary virtual instruction in the meantime.

The guidance also calls on schools to develop their own plans for many issues, such as creating a process to inform event attendees of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“There are going to be challenges in implementing some of the things,” Dohm said. “But for the safety of the kids, we’ll figure out how to do it.”

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