EAST LANSING, Mich. – July 29 – The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association today approved the next steps in returning sports for member schools, adopting a plan to phase in competition for Fall sports in hopes of continuing to deter the spread of COVID-19.
The Council affirmed that lower-risk sports – Lower Peninsula girls golf, Lower Peninsula boys tennis and Upper Peninsula girls tennis, cross country and Lower Peninsula girls swimming & diving – may begin practice on Aug. 12 and begin competition on their traditional start dates of Aug. 19 and 21.
However, moderate and high-risk sports – football, girls volleyball and boys soccer – may begin practice but not competition. Decisions about competition timelines for these three sports will be made by Aug. 20.
Practice for boys soccer and girls volleyball may begin on Aug. 12. Football will delay the start of practice with full player pads and equipment until Monday, Aug. 17. The week of Aug. 10 may include football practice sessions consisting of conditioning, physical training and skill work with no other player equipment except helmets. This week of acclimatization is similar to allowed summer football activities that have been ongoing for schools since June.
The Council – the MHSAA’s 19-member legislative body – also voted to cancel scrimmages in all Fall sports for this school year and approved limitations on numbers of teams that may compete together at regular-season tournaments, invitationals and other multi-team events. The Council believed eliminating scrimmages emphasized the importance of keeping teams from mixing before the first date of competition, and the regular-season limitations may lessen opportunities for viral spread while still allowing meets to be conducted.
As this remains a fluid situation, the MHSAA would release updated timelines for competition for football, girls volleyball and boys soccer by Aug. 20 dependent on how the spread of the virus is trending statewide. Plans remain reliant on sustained metrics measuring virus spread and/or progression by schools and regions across the state according to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Safe Start Plan. Currently two regions are in Phase 5, which allow for limited indoor activity, while the rest are in Phase 4 and unable to host indoor training, practice or competition.
The start of volleyball and swimming & diving practices are in part contingent on the reopening of indoor facilities. Those sports may begin their practices outdoors if not allowed to be indoors by Aug. 12.
“The Council, reflecting on the positive impact on their athletes this summer from taking part in offseason training, feels it’s of utmost importance to continue athletic activity moving forward,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “If we take a month off, our students will find opportunities to compete through non-school entities that may not be as focused on safety. Our athletic directors and coaches can provide the safest-possible environment to return to sports, and this phased-in approach to competition will help schools continue building on progress already made.
“The Council chose to make these adjustments to help ensure our athletes have a safe regular season this fall. As we continue to solidify the regular season, we can then turn our attention to building a safe postseason for our athletes.”
The MHSAA also has posted sport-by-sport guidance documents outlining increased precautions designed to limit the viral spread, plus a four-page overview with precautions that apply generally for all sports and include coverage of the following topics:
Specific sport guidelines and the overview are available on the respective sport pages of the MHSAA Website, all linked from https://www.mhsaa.com/sports. Recommendations on spectator attendance will follow before the start of competition; spectators will be limited in accordance with Governor Whitmer’s executive orders on large gatherings.
The Council on July 17 approved a return-to-activity plan for the 2020-21 school year retaining the traditional calendar of Fall, Winter and Spring sports, but allowing for the possibility that Fall sports forced to halt activity during the next four months may conclude later in the school year.
“The easy way out would be to postpone all activity to next spring, and we are not taking the easy way out. But we will make wise decisions based on medical guidance,” Uyl said. “We will make these difficult decisions quickly and appropriately. If we don’t play this fall, it won’t be because we didn’t make every effort to do so.”
The Representative Council is the legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities, and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.
The D3hoops.com All-Decade Team includes a first, second, third and fourth team honor squad as well as an honorable mention listing. Verkaik-Ratliff has been named to the first team and is joined on the first team by Sydneyn Moss (Thomas More), Chelsie Schweers (Christopher Newport), Madison Temple (Thomas More) and Melissa Tobie (Montclair State).
Ratliff is the only player in MIAA history to be named a four-time MIAA Most Valuable Player in women's basketball. She was a four-time D3hoops.com All-American, earning third team honors as a freshman (2010) and then earning first team citations in 2011, 2012 and 2013. She was named the D3hoops.com National Rookie of the Year in 2010 and was named the D3hoops.com National Player of the Year in 2013.
As as senior in 2013, she also received the prestigious Jostens Trophy, given to an outstanding Division III basketball player who excels on the floor, in the classroom and in the community. She is the Calvin career leader in points (2,236), rebounds (1,071) and blocked shots (440). In fact, she is ranked fifth on the NCAA III career list for blocked shots.
Ratliff helped Calvin claim three straight MIAA regular season titles, a pair of MIAA Tournament crowns. She also helped Calvin receive four berths in the NCAA III Tournament including a trip to the NCAA III Tournament Quarterfinals in 2012.
During her four-year career, she helped the Knights post a combined won-loss record of 100-16.
She was part of a trio of sisters to play together with the Calvin women's basketball program as younger sisters Breanna (2011-2015) and Kally (2012-2016) were Knights. The trio spent the 2012-13 season as Calvin varsity teammates.
Ratliff currently serves as an assistant women's basketball coach at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado.
FORMER CALVIN WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH JOHN ROSS ON CARISSA VERKAK RATLIFF: "It was a blessing to have Carissa in our program at Calvin. She would come to practice everyday with a smile on her face, determined to become a better person and basketball player. Carissa is one of the best athletes I have ever coached and she pushed herself in the weight room and in her conditioning to get all of the God-given talent out of herself. During her senior year she was able to play with her two younger sisters and, with a very few exceptions, her sisters would cause more problems for her trying to score in practice than opponents would in games. She is a humble person and I am excited to see where the game of basketball takes her as she is an assistant coach at Colorado Christian. Her positive attitude is going to have an amazing impact on the players in our women’s basketball game."
CARISSA VERKAIK RATLIFF: "Personally, I loved my experience at Calvin and would not change it for the world. What made it so special was my Christian family, community, teammates, and coaches that I was surrounded, supported, and encouraged by. They were the ones that made my experience and college career what it was. I have so many life long friends that came from there and honestly, so many good memories that I don’t know if I can choose a favorite. One most definitely would have to be when my teammate, Jill Thomas, hit a deep three for the win at the buzzer against our rivals, Hope College, my sophomore year.
"As a college coach now, playing at the D3 level taught me the importance of relationships and balance that is needed at every level. My coach, John Ross, is someone whom I consider family now, and that is what I desire each of my players to think about myself and coaching staff that I work with when they graduate. I was blessed to have a career that I still stand in shock of, but in the end it all comes back to the relationships I made that really made the difference for me and made my career what it was. No one can overlook the importance of genuine love, care, support when it comes to sports."
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