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High school summer sports can resume outdoors, with social distancing

High school girls soccer match during the Flint Olympian Games.
Flint Olympian and CANUSA Games

The Michigan High School Athletic Association has updated their guidelines on summer athletics. This comes after Governor Gretchen Whitmer lifted Michigan’s COVID-19 related stay at home order. Now, groups of up to 100 can gather outside, as long as they practice social distancing.

As a result, the MHSAA has moved to what it calls a “modified step 2” of its original guide to reopening. Student athletes can participate in activities at school facilities as long as “the school or school district has declared school facilities open to students and staff and the academic school year (last day of online instruction/exams) has ended.”

The guidelines specify that only outdoor activities can occur at the time. Indoor facilities like locker rooms, gyms, weight rooms, and indoor pools will remain closed. Students will also have to maintain appropriate social distancing when participating in the outdoor activities.

The MHSAA groups high school sports by how risky they are in terms of COVID-19 exposure, and provides specific guidelines for how each sport should proceed. Higher risk sports like football and wrestling state that drills need to be conducted without touching teammates, and equipment shouldn’t be shared.

Geoff Kimmerly is with MHSAA. He says summer athletics usually look like summer camps and summer training for athletes on school teams, but that’s obviously going to be different this summer. 

“A lot of athletes haven’t done anything for two months, so they’re not going to even start out in their district with doing things like specific sport kinda drills. It’s more, okay, how do we get everybody on a football field, get them at proper social distance and do some conditioning things, do some, you know, stay in place sort of exercise to work on strength, to work on endurance.”

The guidelines also have more general safety precautions, like cleaning facilities and screening students for COVID-19 symptoms, as well as recommendations for face coverings. Kimmerly says the guidelines are flexible enough to allow individual schools to adapt them to fit their needs.

“Schools can decide how they want to do things, how they want to do pre-workout checks in terms of temperature checks and things like that. We say you gotta keep things clean and things of that nature, but schools will figure out how they want to do that. They’ll figure out what kind of drills they want to do outside that maybe they would do inside, generally. There’s obviously a lot open there for interpretation by schools, but the base guidelines are there to give them some direction.”

According to Kimmerly, they’re in a holding pattern right now. He says circumstances could change very quickly, and there’s still no plan for what fall athletics might look like.

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Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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