Winter contact sports to resume in wake of “Let Them Play” protests

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Photo credit: Amelia Nowicki

As athletes and coaches ease into the delayed winter sports season, many are excited to once again compete in their respective sports.“Now that we’ve succeeded in the push to have a season, I can say I’m stress free from schedule changes and full of energy to see our Norsemen compete,” head wrestling coach Jaron Nelson said.

Prior to the reintroduction of contact sports in Michigan high schools, sophomore Michael Salvador, along with many athletes and coaches, found himself meeting with the wrestling team and conditioning via Zoom.

However, on Feb. 4, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced that winter contact sports would be allowed to resume on Feb. 8, nearly two weeks before their previous return date. After experiencing online workouts for some time, many students are eager to be back.

“As a team, we were frustrated because we weren’t doing what we signed up for,” Salvador said.

The updated restrictions will continue as long as safety expectations are met. In order to keep contact sports competing, all team members are required to wear masks during events or be regularly tested. Head wrestling coach Jaron Nelson aims to lead his team into the season with mindfulness as to how important personal interactions are.

We are following all of MDHHS and MHSAA’s COVID-19 protocols aside from that I ask that my team (to) limit outside gatherings with friends until after the season for the sake of their other teammates,” Nelson said.

Upon Whitmer disclosing her initial plans for winter contact sports, many students and parents pushed for less restrictions on athletics. As a result, students and parents organized a “Let them Play” rally in Lansing to sway Whitmer’s decisions. 

Varsity boys hockey player and senior Ethan McCormick felt that the community’s actions played a notable role in the outcome of the restrictions on contact sports.

“I think just everybody speaking out about it was a driving force,” McCormick said. “Everybody wanted to play. We will follow the rules. All we wanted to do was play the game we love, especially for the seniors that it might be there last season.”

Despite all of the controversy, Whitmer expressed that the “Let Them Play” movement was not the reason for the recent update. According to the New York Times Michigan Coronavirus Map, cases in Michigan have dropped over 30 percent over the last two weeks. Moving forward, public officials will continue following guidelines as recommended by public health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the number of cases is predicted to fall.

My biggest concern is not being able to play this game. I love this game with all my heart and it would kill me if I couldn’t play it for my last year in high school.”

— Ethan McCormick

With both contact and non-contact winter seasons now in full-swing, a few rules have been reinstated to ensure safety of athletes, coaches and spectators, one such rule being a two-fan limit per athlete. Although concerns regarding safety linger, guidelines such as the aforementioned maintaining social distancing and mandating masks are predicted to prevent the spread of the virus via sporting events. 

Given this as well as the lowered trajectory of case numbers in the state of Michigan, athletics participants remain hopeful for the rest of this season. Many believe that above all, it’s important to work together to ensure the safety of one another in order to make sure athletes can keep competing.

Stay healthy, and remember positive thoughts promote positive outcomes,” Nelson said.

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