Some high school winter sports may be delayed until late February –

East Grand Rapids head coach Troy Hammond talks about strategy during halftime at East Grand Rapids High School in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, January 21, 2020. East Grand Rapids defeated Grand Rapids Christian, 64-40. (Anntaninna Biondo | Biondo |
It appears that the start of the high school winter sports season for contact sports has been pushed back three more weeks.
That’s how athletic directors and coaches are interpreting the latest list of restrictions released Friday morning by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Michigan High School Athletic Association spokesperson Geoff Kimnerley, who is working this weekend’s state football championships at Ford Field in Detroit, withheld comment when asked by MLive Friday. However, coaches have been quick to chime in, and they are disappointed with the news.
All sports returned earlier this month with practices, but without contact for sports deemed contact sports. It appears that that policy will now continue deep into February.
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The revised health order which takes effect Feb. 1 and runs through Feb. 21 includes non-professional contact sports.
“I haven’t heard from an MHSAA representative, but this means we can’t do contact stuff until (Feb.) 21st,” East Grand Rapids girls basketball coach Troy Hammond told MLive. “Based on the order and everyone I’ve spoken to, it would certainly appear as though, unless they would later revise it, that we won’t be able to have any contact until the 21st of February.”
The current executive order is scheduled to expire Jan. 31, and the MHSAA had released a revised state tournament schedule for the contact sports, including girls and boys basketball, wrestling, hockey and competitive cheer. Basketball finals had been pushed back into April.
All that is up in the air for now. Hammond said he is still hopeful to have a season if the restrictions are finally lifted on Feb. 21. He added that one way or another, basketball will be played in Michigan at some point.
“I’m still willing to hold out hope for it,” Hammond said. “But I think this invites a situation in which travel teams are going to fill the void, especially since we have been given no indication to expect that when February 21st rolls around that it will be any different from the previous tentative dates.
“That would be one of my concerns, that travel sports will fill the void and the issues that come with that, where there is not the equality of opportunity that comes with travel sports. If you come from a more favorable social economic background, then you are going to have opportunities. But if you don’t, then you are losing out on opportunities.”
Girls basketball did get a week of practice in before it was paused in November.
“This one was unexpected,” Hammond said. “At least the nature of it by pushing things 20 days now. I think what is incredibly frustrating is the lack of transparency from the state. Not the MHSAA. The state is not giving us any information of what to expect or the benchmarks we are supposed to meet.
“I’m frustrated with the inconsistency with the logic that is applied. Kids right now all across the state of Michigan are able to play basketball and contact sports in gym class for 7:30 to 3 o’clock. But as soon as the bell rings at 3 o’clock, that same activity becomes a safety risk. It’s hard to reconcile some of those inconsistencies.”
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