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'Sports has not been the super spreader event' - MHSAA working to start winter contact sports

Posted at 7:27 PM, Jan 29, 2021

With new guidance from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to begin reopening some restaurants and businesses beginning Monday, one group of Michiganders is feeling left out. Student athletes, parents, and coaches are saying it’s time to “Let Them Play.”

“School based sports has not been the super spreader event that it certainly wasn’t with our experience in the fall and with what other states are doing in the winter. That data is simply not there,” Michigan High School Athletic Association Director Mark Uyl told the press Friday.

Uyl noted that 38 states, including Michigan’s bordering neighbors Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana, have already started winter competitions for contact sports.

For Mason High School’s wrestling coach Brian Martel, the wait feels unfair to staff and students who have been working to make sure there will be a season.

“That’s the frustrating part when you feel like you’re doing everything that you’re asked. You wear the mask. You socially distance. You do things that are uncomfortable and different. You really expect on the other end that you can move forward,” Martel said.

Gov. Whitmer said she understands the concerns athletes and parents have, but the state needs to be cautious of the new COVID-19 variant spreading in places like Ann Arbor on the University of Michigan campus.

“We’ve got to not let our guard down,” Whitmer stated in Monday’s press conference.

In an effort to tamp to the new variant’s spread on its campus, the university canceled all sporting events for two weeks. The governor commended the faculty’s decision on Monday.

For high school parents across the state, they say the mental health risk is too high to keep students out of sports. A group of students, parents, and coaches testified before the State House and Senate Thursday to demand the season start.

“I got a message from a mom the other day who said she was currently holding her 6-foot-2 son in her lap crying over the exhaustion of the rollercoaster ride we’re putting these kids through,” Jayme McElvany testified.

McElvany is a mother of high school athletes in Milan, Michigan and the founder of the Facebook group Let Them Play Michigan. She started the online community this summer to fight for the fall football season. It now has over 35,000 members representing all of Michigan’s high school sports.

August "Let Them Play" rally outside of the Michigan Capitol building.

The group will be holding their third peaceful “Let Them Play” rally outside of the Capitol building Saturday from 12pm to 3pm. The flyer for the event says no political posters allowed.

The MHSAA is confident that there will be both winter and spring sports here in Michigan, it’s just a question of when. Once the winter season is underway, Uyl and his team will start preparing the timeline for spring sports.

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