The Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) Board of Directors voted to grant relief of portions of the MSHSAA By-Laws that include summer limits on contact between coaches and student-athletes, at its April meeting on Thursday, April 16th.
Dependent upon approval from local and state health officials, the MSHSAA Board voted to make the summertime dead period and the summer limits on contact optional for the summer of 2020. MSHSAA By-Law 1.5 requires member schools to establish a period of nine consecutive days beginning on a Saturday and lasting to the second following Sunday, in which no contact takes place between school coaches/directors of MSHSAA-sponsored activities and students enrolled in the member school, or who will be enrolled in the member school during the next school year.
With Thursday’s decision, a school may choose to comply with this “dead period” or to allow teams to hold activities. This decision also relieves portions of By-Law 3.15.3 and 3.15.4, which limits teams to 20 days of contact during the summer. Member schools may allow teams to have more than 20 days of contact in which any coaching or instruction in the skills and techniques of any sport takes place.
“The abrupt changes that took place to our normal system of education this spring, have our schools pleading for access to students this summer,” said MSHSAA Executive Director Dr. Kerwin Urhahn. “The membership asked about what possible flexibility and modifications to by-law restrictions that could be offered. If there is no local, state, or national clearance for safe contact with students, then any allowances dealing with summer will be moot. But, in an effort to be prepared for what we hope is possible, this action was taken to grant some relief for the member schools.”
In other action, the Board of Directors voted to allow seniors to be viewed as enrolled students through the summer, which allows them to represent their high schools in summertime interscholastic competition. This relief of By-Law 3.15 is designed for this summer only.
“Hopefully, this will allow schools to play contests against other schools to provide closure and recognition for students and allow teams and kids to play together this summer,” said Urhahn.
At this point, no action was taken to alter any other sections of By-Law 3.15, or the fall no contact period (3.15.1.b) that is scheduled to take place between August 3, 2020 and August 9, 2020. All summertime activities remain optional for students, attendance or participation could not be required.
“The first thing that needs to be clearly understood is that all decisions about anything summer-related – be it contact, access, practice, games, conditioning, etc. - must first be approved, cleared and deemed safe by the CDC, State and Local Health Departments, the Governor, and local Mayors” Urhahn concluded.
“The end of social distancing and ‘safe at home’ is still not clearly visible yet, and summer activities may not be possible due to the covid-19 pandemic and its own timeline.”
Grain Valley High School Activities Director Brandon Hart acknowledged it is difficult to explain what MSHSAA’s press release exactly means with so many unknowns still left in the air.
“I know everyone is going to be ready to work hard this summer after being cooped up all Spring. MSHSAA voted to remove the mandatory 20 day contact limitations and summertime dead period. Grain Valley will eliminate our dead period the first week of July, because we understand until we have a better idea about the timeline of ‘opening back up,’ it is difficult to know what type of impact this will have,” Hart said.
“This action does give schools more flexibility though, assuming we can resume normal activity this summer. Last week, I communicated with our coaches that we will discard our current summer calendar, and we will create a new summer calendar when we have more information about timelines. It is important that every program get equal opportunities for summer participation so we will have to get back together and create a master schedule that strives to work around the needs of the various programs.”
“Dominoes start to fall when you have multiple athletic programs. Grain Valley has a lot of multi-sport athletes, so we want to make sure to eliminate as many conflicts as possible. I would be shocked if a sport is able to have more than 20 contact days, especially if we lose any days this summer.”
“Summer weights is probably the biggest challenge. Historically, we have opened the weight room four days a week in the summer, so hopefully we can open back up as soon as possible. Coaches may have to reduce the playbook this Fall, and kids will be a little further behind when we start back up, but everyone is in the same boat. We will work as hard as we can to have a strong summer program, but our main priority is protecting the health and well-being of our families.”
Hart concluded, “In other action, MSHSAA also voted to allow seniors to be viewed as enrolled students through the summer so they may represent their high schools in summertime interscholastic competition. I still have many questions and need more guidance from MSHSAA. Typically, summer is used for development, and any competition is controlled.”
“That being said, schools understand this summer may be different. Will schools try to play baseball and girls soccer games this summer to provide closure for seniors? Will kids have to choose between their summer competitive team and their high school team? Only time will tell, as we are in unprecedented times. I will be interested to see how this evolves.”