By Joseph Hayes
It has been quite the emotional roller coaster.
Each and every day, local teams throughout the Blue Water Area have continued to work hard with the hope of being ready for a new high school winter sports season.
But there have been hurdles to confront along the way. Friday was the latest example as yet another delay in the winter sports season was announced by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
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It was announced on Friday that Whitmer and the MDHHS would be delaying the start of official games for winter contact sports — yet again.
After previous delays, contact high school sports such as girls and boys basketball, ice hockey, competitive cheerleading and wrestling will be forced to remain free of contact through Feb. 21.
The previous delay via emergency order was set to expire on Feb. 1.
“We found out about this decision at 9:30 a.m. like everyone else, and we will address it as quickly as possible after taking the weekend to collect more information,” Michigan High School Athletic Association Executive Director Mark Uyl said.
“We did not anticipate this delay in winter contact practices and competition, and today’s announcement has created many new questions. Obviously, this is disappointing to thousands of athletes who have been training with their teams over the last week and watching teams in other states around Michigan play for the last two months.”
At the same time, it was announced by Whitmer and the MDHHS that sports arenas with capacities of at least 10,000 people can allow up to 500 people to attend athletic events.
But the MHSAA said they will not sell additional tickets for today or Saturday’s 11-Player Football Finals at Ford Field.
“We have been planning these finals for weeks to include immediate family, and unfortunately this isn’t a process we can adjust midstream,” Uyl said. “Distributing more tickets would put stress on those plans and Ford Field staffing, and force schools to make more hard decisions on who will be able to attend, but at the last second instead of with prior planning.”
Today’s decisions will have an overall far reaching impact on athletes around the state, including local athletes that have been hard at work.
“I think it’s time the governor and the MDHHS provide actual data as to why high schools contact sports can not take place,” Marine City Cardinal Mooney boys basketball coach Mike McAndrews said. “The pilot testing program for football and volleyball has proven at a 99% negativity rate that high school athletics is not where the virus spreads.
“It’s time we put the mental health of our athletes at the forefront and stop giving them false hope just the pull the rug out from under them again and again. The fact the MHSAA didn’t even know about this latest pause prior to the press conference proves that the Governor has no desire to work towards a resolution for these kids.”