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‘This is crazy’: Detroit area coaches not happy about partial reopening of fall sports in Michigan

David Goricki
The Detroit News

The Michigan High School Athletic Association is allowing volleyball, soccer and swimming seasons to go on this fall.

Well, sort of.

If you go to school in Regions 6 and 8 (Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula), you’re allowed to play games and matches starting Friday since those regions are authorized for those activities by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders.

Volleyball competition in the southern Lower Peninsula will have to wait.

The same can’t be said for athletes in Regions 1-5 and 7. Those schools can continue outdoor practice, but not have games or matches.

So if you live in Regions 1-5 or 7, you could be practicing for days, weeks and perhaps months while never playing a game.

(The counties in each region are listed below.)

“I guess we’re on postponement again,” said Northville head soccer coach Henry Klimes, who was set to open the season Saturday at home against Livonia Stevenson. “It makes us look like we’re allowed to practice. I don’t think I’m going to get the guys to just practice and not play. To me it sounds like if I want to play a team up north I can, but that’s not right. It doesn’t make any sense.”

He’s correct. Northville could play at match in Traverse City, but not in Detroit, Jackson, Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids, nor could it host a match.

“I guess I’m going to tell my kids we’ll have two squads, play best-of-three, then will switch things around and do it again – try to make the best of it. Really, I don’t know how I’m going to tell the kids. They (players) might just want to shut down and say, ‘Why am I going to do sprints and listen to you if we don’t even have a match.’ This is crazy.

“Really, I also don’t understand why the volleyball teams around here can’t play, especially when there’s 100 people in Kroger, 100 people in Home Depot. There’s no reason why those kids can’t be playing a volleyball match indoors.”

The MHSAA was authorized by executive orders to create guidance for a return of school sports and over the last eight weeks has worked to do this while complying with all of Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders.

“The Council was prepared today to approve competition in volleyball, soccer and swimming for all schools in all regions, but was unable to do so because of questions remaining on which activities are still not allowed,” the MSHAA wrote in a press release.

“Our Council has made clear it is ready to offer students these opportunities, pending approval from Gov. Whitmer,” MHSAA director Mark Uyl said. “We have been told that within a week, future guidance will address athletic issues that exist in current executive orders. We are awaiting that guidance.

More: 'It was a shocker': No high school football a bitter pill for Michigan coaches, players

Bloomfield Hills is among the schools that is still not allowed to have volleyball matches. Bloomfield Hills coach Larry Wyatt said his team will continue to practice outdoors and hope the gymnasiums in Regions 1-5 and 7 will be allowed to open sooner than later.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, so we’ll just continue to practice outdoors and see what happens,” Wyatt said.

“Technically I could take my team next week and drive to Region 6 and 8 and play some volleyball, but I don’t see us doing that. My girls would rather keep practicing. What I’m hoping to do is get the opportunity to scrimmage against other teams in our area outdoors before we go indoors.”

For attendance purposes, schools in Regions 6 and 8 may have for indoor volleyball a total of 250 people or 25 percent of the facility’s capacity, whichever is smallest. Indoor pools in Regions 6 and 8 are limited to 25 percent of established pool capacity. Outdoor competition in Regions 6 and 8 may have 500 people or 25 percent of capacity, whichever is smallest.

The Council also approved out-of-season coaching adjustments allowing football and spring sports coaches more contact with their athletes in advance of the 2021 season.

To provide additional offseason activity for sports that have had their full seasons canceled or moved, the Council approved 16 contact days for football and all spring sports to be used for voluntary practices among students from the same school only.

Football may schedule their contact days from Aug. 24 through Oct. 31. Spring sports – baseball, softball, girls soccer, girls and boys track, girls and boys lacrosse, boys golf, Upper Peninsula girls golf, Lower Peninsula girls tennis and Upper Peninsula boys tennis – may schedule their 16 contact days for voluntary practices from Sept. 8-Oct. 31.

“I’m just holding out hope, trying to be optimistic that we can still play, hoping we get a gauge after Ohio and Indiana open their football seasons,” said Belleville football coach Jermain Crowell said. “We have these 16 contact days, it’s like spring practice. We might throw the ball around and do some 7-on-7s, but what are we getting ready for? I guess it’s a good time to get the coaching staff and the organizational stuff better. I can really dive into special teams and we can work on developing all the young kids, so I’m appreciative for anything.”

Football and all spring sports then may conduct skill work with coaches and up to four players at a time beginning Nov. 1 until the first day of official practice this upcoming spring.

Michigan regions 

Region 1 counties: Monroe, Washtenaw, Livingston, Genesee, Lapeer, Saint Clair, Oakland, Macomb, Wayne.

Region 2: Mason, Lake, Osceola, Clare, Oceana, Newaygo, Mecosta, Isabella, Muskegon, Montcalm, Ottawa, Kent, Ionia.

Region 3: Allegan, Barry, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Berrien, Cass, Saint Joseph, Branch.

Region 4: Oscoda, Alcona, Ogemaw, Iosco, Gladwin, Arenac, Midland, Bay, Saginaw, Tuscola, Sanilac, Huron.

Region 5: Gratiot, Clinton, Shiawassee, Eaton, Ingham.

Region 6: Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Crawford, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Presque Isle, Emmet.

Region 7: Hillsdale, Lenawee, Jackson.

Region 8: Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw, Iron, Baraga, Dickinson, Marquette, Menominee, Delta, Alger, Schoolcraft, Luce, Mackinac, Chippewa.