Enough already!

High school kids throughout Michigan have been conditioning and practicing for their fall sports for weeks, while awaiting word from state officials about whether they will be allowed to play.

Now here we are – a day after competition actually began for high school tennis and golf, and one day before the first soccer games and volleyball matches are scheduled to begin – and the state still can’t make up its mind about whether those sports, along with swimming and diving, will be allowed!

This is beyond ridiculous!

On Wednesday, the Michigan High School Athletic Association was supposed to make an announcement about whether soccer, volleyball and swimming can start their seasons. Then the decision was delayed until today.

This afternoon the MHSAA sent out an extremely confusing media release that really answers nothing at all for the majority of schools in Michigan.

“Schools in the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula – designated as Regions 6 and 8, respectively, by executive order – are allowed to begin competition Aug. 21, as originally scheduled. Schools in all other Regions (1-5, and 7) may continue outdoor practice, pending further executive orders allowing for the opening of indoor facilities and physical distancing while competing in those areas.

OK, well, high school volleyball is played in indoor facilities, but not soccer. What does that have to do with soccer? There was more:

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

What remaining questions? Who has the answers?  

This is grossly unfair to the coaches, players and their families, who have been waiting weeks to find out if there is going to be a season. And it’s inexcusable. Does the state expect to learn something new about COVID-19 tomorrow or next week that it didn’t know a month ago?

At first my irritation was aimed at the MHSAA, but now I suspect that the organization, which is a private non-profit and not a branch of state government, is simply dangling at the mercy of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The tipoff was the phrase “pending further executive orders,” along with “questions remaining on which activities are still not allowed.” If the governor was doing her job, those questions would already be answered.

I will not challenge the governor on her decisions about what to allow and not allow during COVID. High school football was cancelled last Friday, almost certainly under her direction. Whether we agree or disagree with that decision, at least a decision was made. The football coaches and players finally know where they stand.

But the governor can’t seem to make up her mind about soccer, volleyball and swimming in the most populated regions of the state. The MHSAA is not getting any answers, so the players and coaches are not getting any, either.

“We need more answers before we can give all of our member schools the go-ahead to play each other again …” the MHSAA media release said.

Step forward, Gov. Whitmer, and take responsibility for this situation, instead of letting the poor, powerless souls at the MHSAA take the heat for your indecision. Explain to us directly what sports will be allowed to play, when and why. If MHSAA officials don’t understand your orders and rules, help them understand!

Throughout COVID, Governor, you have been very direct and forthright about what the rules will be, based on your personal judgement. Some may not like that style of leadership in a constitutional democracy, but at least it was leadership.

But when it comes to the high school sports that mean so much to so many people, Governor, you can’t seem to communicate what you believe should happen. Or if you have been communicating, the folks at MHSAA are not getting the message.

Perhaps a few very overdue phone calls are in order, to clear this shameful mess up.