By Dan Hardenbrook
Another weekend, and another bombshell announcement from the State of Michigan for high school sports. The winter season, which normally would have begun two months ago, has stopped and started more times than a big city traffic jam.
Now, our winter athletes are being told they can practice – as long as they’re wearing masks and practicing social distancing – but team members can’t have any contact with each other. Not even the wrestling team. And they can’t have any competitions with other schools.
The season is now in jeopardy — again. The worst part isn’t the loss of games or revenue associated with those events. It’s not even the headaches coaches and athletic directors have had with scheduling. It’s not a shortage of officials, who have backed out after so many changes. The worst part is that nobody knows what’s going on, or what the reasoning is.
Every AD and coach that I have talked to say they don’t get it. The high school and amateur sports society has done every single thing possible to get games played and get kids back in the action. They were told there needed to be significant progress, and there was. They were told they would have to mask up and lock out fans. They did. They needed to prove that it was safe. Science says nothing else comes close.
The MHSAA put in a required MDHHS pilot testing program for teams to finish tournaments in football and volleyball. Hundreds of kids were tested three times a week for almost a month. The result. 99.8% negative. The state got the info they needed and wanted. It still wasn’t good enough.
But now many feel like the rules are changing mid-play. Everything that has worked before, every sacrifice that was requested, is no longer good enough. There is no longer a fight about masks. People are no longer arguing about how many fans should be in the stands. Kids are willing to go through the required screenings and tests, and play without an audience, because they just want to play.
The University of Wisconsin just released a study that tied zero total cases to high school sports. In Michigan, no positive cases have been linked to sports. Only those who came from other areas or activities tested positive, which wouldn’t have been caught if they weren’t being checked on by coaches every day.
In Ohio, schools never gave up sports during the pandemic. And here in Michigan, bars and restaurants are about to reopen. So I ask, on behalf of players, coaches, athletic directors, and school administrators: WHY CAN’T KIDS PLAY?
These kids just want to play. They need to play. And 99.8% of them have proven that it can be done safely. Another 98% of teams that played earlier in the fall, including almost all of the schools in the Eastern UP, completed their seasons.
Zero hospitalizations, zero deaths. Zero issues tied to high school sports.
They have all of the answers, so what questions remain?
This is about the kids, coaches, and communities willing to do whatever it takes. They’ve done everything that has been asked, and gone above and beyond what was needed. Someone please tell them why they can’t play now?