TRI-CITY AREA — The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association reaffirmed their commitment last Wednesday to play winter sports when the current restrictions are lifted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Winter contact sports such as girls’ and boys’ basketball, competitive cheer, ice hockey and wrestling are presently allowed to participate in non-contact activities only, per an MDHHS emergency order restricting contact activity and competition due to COVID-19.

Non-contact winter sports such as girls’ and boys’ bowling, girls’ gymnastics, girls’ and boys’ alpine skiing plus girls’ and boys’ swimming and diving are able to participate in those activities fully.

The MDHHS limitations on winter contact sports were set to expire at the end of January, but were extended last week by MDHHS through February 21.

“Each week we see hundreds of examples of children and families competing in non-school competition both in state and out,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “This not only in violation of MDHHS orders, but sending all of these families into different states will only become an impediment to getting students back in school full time,” he noted.

“But we can contribute to students returning to in-person learning by allowing MHSAA member schools to begin full activities, participating locally and against more local competition and under the guidance of trained professional educators.”

The MHSAA recently concluded their fall sports tournaments with 11-player football finals.

Earlier this month, volleyball, Lower Peninsula girls’ swimming and diving, and 8-player football finals were completed to conclude those seasons. All four were allowed to complete those seasons because those teams took part in the MDHHS rapid testing pilot program.

Results of that program were overwhelmingly positive. A total of 5,376 individuals (athletes, coaches, team personnel, cheerleaders, etc. were tested and 57 or one percent tested positive at some point in the pilot. Nearly 30,000 antigen tests were administered and 99.8 percent were negative. All four data points were through January 19 and provided to the MHSAA by the MDHHS.

As of January 25, winter contact sports had started in 38 states. That includes border states such as Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Kevin Kissane has been covering high school sports for the Tri-City Times since 1985. When not standing on a field or court with his camera and notepad, he enjoys golf, travel and family. Kevin is a 1980 graduate of Capac High School, and is also a grad of St. Clair Community College and earned a degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.