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MHSAA: Fall sports will commence, competition will phase in

The MHSAA plans to phase in competition in attempt to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Credit: Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press
Hudsonville Unity Christian celebrates with the spirit students after winning the Division 5 MHSAA State Championship at Ford Field in Detroit on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018.

With a phase-in approach and heightened safety protocols, high school sports will commence in Michigan this fall semester.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) announced Wednesday that sports will begin in August, although the season may look a little different this year. The association plans to phase in competition in attempt to combat the spread of COVID-19.

To do this, the MHSAA has split fall sports into to categories: lower-risk and high-risk.

Lower-risk sports include Lower Peninsula girls golf and swimming and diving, Lower Peninsula boys tennis, and Upper Peninsula girls tennis and cross country. These sports may begin practice on Aug. 12 and begin competition on their traditional start dates of Aug. 19 and Aug. 21.

High-risk sports include football, girls volleyball and boys soccer. These sports can begin practice but not competition; the MHSAA said decisions about competition timelines for all three sports will be made by Aug. 20.

For now, the MHSAA is allowing boys soccer and girls volleyball to begin practices on Aug. 12. Football can also start practices that week, but practices with full player pads and equipment won’t start until Aug. 17.

RELATED: Michigan High School Athletic Association plans to resume sports in the fall

For football, that first week of practice without pads or equipment will be what the MHSAA calls a “week of acclimatization.”

Additionally, the MHSAA’s Representative Council voted to cancel all scrimmages for fall sports this semester and also approved limitations on numbers of teams that may compete together at tournaments, invitationals and other multi-team events. Scrimmages are cancelled to prevent teams from intermixing before the first date of competition.

While volleyball and swimming and diving can start practices Aug. 12, these sports will only be able to practice outdoors until the reopening of indoor facilities.

RELATED: With non-conference games canceled, GVSU is still holding out hope for a football season

“The Council, reflecting on the positive impact on their athletes this summer from taking part in offseason training, feels it’s of utmost importance to continue athletic activity moving forward,” said MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl.

“The Council chose to make these adjustments to help ensure our athletes have a safe regular season this fall. As we continue to solidify the regular season, we can then turn our attention to building a safe postseason for our athletes.”

Specific sport guidelines are available on the respective sport pages of the MHSAA Website, all linked here.

MHSAA will also come out with spectator attendance recommendations before the start of competition. Attendance will be limited in accordance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders.

“The easy way out would be to postpone all activity to next spring, and we are not taking the easy way out. But we will make wise decisions based on medical guidance,” Uyl said. “We will make these difficult decisions quickly and appropriately. If we don’t play this fall, it won’t be because we didn’t make every effort to do so.”

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