On January 22, 2021, updates for the latest Epidemic Order were communicated to the general public. The restrictions on basketball, cheerleading, hockey, and wrestling were extended to the end of February. I want to be very clear that I respect the duties of the governor and I genuinely appreciate the efforts of her and her team.
However, I, along with many, are having a challenging time understanding why our student-athletes are unable to practice and compete. At Oxford High School and Oxford Middle School we have conducted practices and workouts in all of our sports since June. We have not had one single case of transmission within our athletic program. Additionally, the Oxford Community Schools District has been face-to-face in school since the end of August, only pausing when forced to by the Epidemic Orders in November. We have had one single case of transmission in our schools.
All available data suggests the majority of spread occurs outside of schools and athletic facilities. MHSAA Executive Director, Mark Uyl has continuously provided hard undeniable facts and data. For example, schools across the state conducted COVID-19 testing in the Pilot Testing Program conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. There were over 30,000 tests conducted by fall sports finishing their seasons. The rate of negative tests was 99.8% (8:11 mark). The majority of the athletes tested were football players who play face-to-face and cannot avoid close contact at most points throughout an unmodified practice or game.
Another fact which cannot be contested is our student-athletes are much safer under our guidance. If the E.O. is not adjusted, MHSAA Winter sports will likely be canceled. The result of this will be student-athletes playing for non-school teams, as well as competing out of state, where it is legal to compete. We are already seeing a spike in All-Star Cheer participation in the state of Michigan where cheerleaders can stunt legally. These student-athletes are not in a controlled environment with distinct safety protocols in place as they would be under the guidance of the schools. For those who decide not to participate at all, they will likely not be at practices or games of any sort. These students have a greater chance to be at unmonitored gatherings with friends where masks and safety precautions are not being observed.
There is no doubt these unprecedented times have been challenging for all of us. As the hope of playing sports dwindles so does the mental health of students state-wide. There is not a more important time than now for our students to be part of a team and active. The weight and depression of this pandemic on students nationwide is reflected in the United Health Foundation’s study on teen suicide. However, the risk of death from COVID-19 for an individual under the age of 24 does not even register on the Michigan.gov website because of the lack of statistical significance.
With all due respect and admiration for the Governor, I urge her to reconsider the restrictions for MHSAA Winter Sports. Please allow us to continue keeping our student-athletes safe, as we have done since the beginning of this pandemic.
There is no doubt COVID-19 is dangerous and has hurt many families. I recognize how important it is to follow the guidelines set forth. I also recognize how dangerous it is for our students not being able to participate in activities and crucial socialization opportunities with their peers. Our students need to start seeing and feeling some hope before it is too late.
For these reasons and the reasons stated above, I will continue to work with the Oakland Activities Association and the MHSAA to bring sports back before their current schedule of return – February 21st, 2021.
Director of Athletics/Assistant Principal
Oxford Community Schools