By Joseph Hayes
With each passing day, the ever changing situation continues to unfold.
Sports are back on for high schools throughout the state of Michigan.
But the way competition will be held will be much different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. There will be far fewer spectators, a much different atmosphere and now even different playing conditions, as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ruled athletes must wear facial coverings if they are not able to social distance.
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The ruling mentions football, volleyball and soccer as sports where facial coverings are essential due to the current pandemic. It also states sports where athletes can keep distance “except for occasional and fleeting moments” — such as tennis, golf, cross country, baseball and softball won’t have to comply with the same conditions and wear masks.
Here is some reaction from around the Blue Water Area regarding the ruling:
“From a coaching perspective, we will do whatever the rules require us to do. Our team has gaiters to comply with the ruling. The masks have proven to be problematic with some of the mouthpieces and most of the players don’t like them, but we will acclimate as we go forward.”St. Clair baseball coach Dennis White
“Obviously, as a coach I’m going to do whatever Mark Uyl and the folks at the MHSAA tell me to do. As a parent I would like to see our parents have the option for their children. If parents feel that their child is safe returning to play a sport they should also have the option to choose whether or not their child should or shouldn’t have to wear a mask during practice and competition.”Brandon Day, Richmond wrestling coach
“It’s just another adjustment for us in a long list of things we’ve had to adjust to recently. As (head) coach (Ryan) Mullins says ‘whatever we need to do to play football we’re going to do it.’ Our administration has provided all of our athletes with gaiters so we wear them at practice. We try to spread kids out, follow the CDC and the MHSAA guidelines, and our administrators have been out to practice several times to make sure of that. I’m excited to play sports and to compete again, so whatever we need to do to make that happen I’ll do it.”Marion Stewart, Port Huron head basketball and assistant football coach
“There is no perfect answer in a situation like this. At the end of the day, we’re just really grateful that we finally get to play inside.”Amanda Busch, Marysville volleyball coach
“We take our mandates from our bosses just like most people. What Larry Roelens, Jason Kasperian and Theo Kerhoulas say is what we are following. And they’re doing the same in terms of taking direction from those above them. If we have to wear them, so will everyone else.”Former Port Huron Northern baseball coach, assistant football coach Bob Kearns
“I am happy they removed the mask requirements for Cross Country. I think that face covering for football and volleyball is difficult for the athlete but we need to do it to keep them safe until the Health Department tells us differently.”Veteran athletic director and administrator Ken Semelsberger
“On one hand, I’m super excited sports are back for the kids and some form of normalcy. It’s long overdue. But on the other hand, the mask order is confusing. I don’t know how the kids will be able to perform with a mask and mouth piece. But whatever it takes to get back to some kind of normal.”Josh Presnell, Richmond boys basketball coach
“Anything we can do to protect the student-athletes is important. However, how will a football player wear a mask and use a mouth piece? Currently, it doesn’t appear that college football players are wearing mask, during the games.”Cliff Thomason, Port Huron assistant basketball coach, skills trainer
“I understand the requirement for masks for football. Football is a sport where there’s no point in time whether if you’re on offense, defense, or special teams where you will be six feet apart from a teammate or opposing player. The number one goal right now is to provide a safe way for those student athletes to have a football season. It’s just all apart of the craziness going on in the world and I know kids, coaches and parents are willing to do whatever is necessary to let these student athletes play.”Former Richmond and current Wayne State QB Chase Churchill
“It’s an adjustment for our players. But we want to play. So, we will do whatever we need to do to stay safe. We are not going to view it as an obstacle, just a new requirement to play safely.”Ryan Mullins, Port Huron High football coach
“We will do whatever we need to do to be able to come out here and play football. It’s definitely an adjustment, wearing a mask, but we are willing to make it.”Derrick Meier, Marysville football coach
“Honestly without these clarifications, it would have basically ended our season. I could not see any coach requiring their runners to race 3.1 in a mask. Some kids would have tried, I am sure, for their love of the sport. I have kids on my team with asthma. At what point does the damage of racing all out in a mask become more dangerous than the risk of exposure — which is low in our noncontact sport.Croswell-Lexington cross country coach Lisa Shaw
We did not take the previous safety requirements lightly either. They were expected to socially distance and wear masks while not actively running at meets and practice. We did not allow spectators at our first meets.
“They are screened and temperature checked each day. We had zoom meetings with league and Thumb coaches to best plan meets and stay within guidelines. Everyone agreed to eliminating those big Invitationals to keep our sport competing and our runners safe. Coaches are networking to create smaller meets to give runners opportunities
Then the texts start coming Labor Day weekend. It took the wind out of my sails. I thought like I have so many times already. I can’t let these runners lose hope. I am going to keep staying positive. They need my voice of reason. I kept telling my runners that this could not be a requirement for our sport. Give it a few days and reason will prevail. I am just glad that Whitmer was willing to clarify. That gives them one more practice, one more competition. Honestly, we know every time they race is a blessing. These kids are just happy to be able to meet, run, and compete at a sport they love.”
“Throughout the summer, I went to 60 baseball games… I was at Canton and other parks that were hosting HUGE tourneys…. I only saw one team using the masks… Everyone just played baseball…Richmond baseball coach Scott Evans:
Several umpires who were high risk, wore masks all the time. Parents for the most part wore masks and social distanced. I understand why she is saying it. Ultimately, I feel she is worried about another jump in cases (outbreak) then she would need to take more executive action to limit people. Not arguing the merits, just stating the facts we have. But as a former athlete, I cannot imagine playing a sports having my airway compromised in anyway. Especially inside where many gyms do not have ideal circulation? What about wrestlers? How are they gonna handle it. In football, would you not be worried about safety. Like if by accident a player grabbed the neck gaiter? If we agree to let kids play, I feel we should let them play free of the face covering.”