The MHSAA has paused all fall tournaments and winter sports in accordance with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Pictured, West Bloomfield High’s Donovan Edwards scores one of his six touchdowns Nov. 14 against Sterling Heights Stevenson in a district final victory.

The MHSAA has paused all fall tournaments and winter sports in accordance with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Pictured, West Bloomfield High’s Donovan Edwards scores one of his six touchdowns Nov. 14 against Sterling Heights Stevenson in a district final victory.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Local coaches talk pause in fall and winter sports

By: Zachary Manning | C&G Newspapers | Published November 17, 2020

METRO DETROIT — The Michigan High School Athletic Association has halted all fall tournaments, along with winter sports practices and competitions, for three weeks in accordance with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

After three weeks, the state will reevaluate where it’s at, in terms of cases.

Swimming and diving, as well as volleyball, were heading into the home stretch, while football had just hit the regional round. For winter sports, many were getting ready to begin practice in advance of the season.

The MHSAA has come up with a plan to resume fall and winter sports, should the pause not be extended. In the plan, winter sports would be allowed to practice beginning Dec. 9, with competition allowed to start on Jan. 4. 

For football, the 11-man regionals and 8-player semifinals would take place Dec. 15-16. The 11-player semifinals and 8-player finals would be played Dec. 21-22. Finally, the 11-player finals would take place at Ford Field Dec. 28-29. 

Volleyball quartefinals would be played Dec. 15, with the semifinals being played Dec. 17-18. The finals would Dec. 19. The semifinals and finals would be played at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.

The swimming and diving finals would take place Dec. 22-23. Three high schools would each host one meet. There is a two week practice window for teams and individuals who qualifed for states. 

“We understand where COVID numbers were trending, and that’s why we have been supportive of the order to pause,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “But these fall sports deserve closure, and this strategy provides the best opportunities without further interruptions to a normal course of training and competition.

“A very small percentage of our teams remain active in our fall tournaments, also limiting potential exposure to the virus across the state. Meanwhile, by waiting until January to begin Winter competition, the Council is allowing our teams to continue activity but also restricting the mixing of communities to further promote reducing COVID spread.”

It draws some similarities to what happened earlier this year. Winter sports such as hockey and basketball had their postseason originally postponed before getting word that the season would have to be shut down for good.

Warren De La Salle football was one of the local teams that had already claimed a district title before the postseason was halted.

“Our kids have come so far from where they were at, and it’s been a struggle for our kids the last 57 weeks. They’ve been through a lot,” De La Salle football coach Dan Rohn said. “We were excited about our opportunities, and we still are, and we still will be. We’ve got some things we can build on for the program for the future, but right now, we’re focused on the here and now and hopefully having the chance to play for a state championship.”

With the season on hold, players will need to remain ready to play, should the restrictions be lifted. It will look similar to the offseason, where players awaited the fate of the beginning of the season.

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball coach Betty Wroubel said her staff will be in constant communication with players about what they need to be doing to be ready to go, should the restrictions be lifted in three weeks. The Fighting Irish were set to take on Warren Regina in a D-2 quarterfinal before the pause.

“We hope to set up a few zoom meetings on Sundays and send film and give kids workouts that they can do at their house,” Wroubel said. “We want to keep them physically active because that’s going to help them, but also — in case it does turn at any point — that we’re ready at that point.”

Should the fall season remain unfinished, it would be a crushing blow to athletes, coaches and fans, especially those with state title hopes.

However, there is an understanding among some coaches and players that the safety of everyone involved comes before playing the game.

“In three weeks, if we can’t start, then let’s just be done,” West Bloomfield High football coach Ron Bellamy said. “I don’t want to hold this over these kids heads or these coaches heads. Life goes on. Football is a game that we love, but lives are more important than football.”

For winter sports, programs will now have to endure another stretch of uncertainty.

Many coaches just want the opportunity to play and are just hoping everyone does their part in lowering the case total during the three-week period.

“I hope we can save some lives and bring the numbers down and get ahead of this virus,” Roseville High basketball coach Hassan Nizam said. “I think the direct benefit from that for us in the sports world would be that we would get our season back.”