New student athlete requirements show harsh reality

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BENTON HARBOR/EDWARDSBURG, Mich. - Starting Friday, April 2nd, all student-athletes will have to get COVID tests at least once a week in Michigan. But could this impact the number of students in quarantine?

Well, testing has previously been voluntary for student-athletes except for winter sports where masks are not recommended like wrestling. But with cases rising in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer made this decision and it really could impact some local sports teams heading into playoffs.

"I'd also like to announce the steps we are taking to respond to rising high school sports outbreaks," Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said at her press conference in mid-March.

“I played in a basketball league over here last summer," Tyler Meeks, a senior athlete from Benton Harbor Area Schools said.

Tyler Meeks isn’t new to the life of a student-athlete.

“I play basketball, football, and baseball," Meeks said.

But this year has been anything but life as usual.

"Going into the school year, I was just hoping that we will have a season," he said.

Tana: Have you guys had to quarantine at all?

"No, not really," he said.

So far so good for the Benton Harbor Tigers but a new state requirement could mean more players are down for the count. And it’s something that’s on everyone’s radar, especially for Edwardsburg Athletic Director Kevin Dean.

"So starting on April 2, the new requirement for spring athletes is that we test all spring athletes one time a week, within a seven-day period," Dean said. "That's going to be middle school through high school.”

That’s roughly 350 kids every week.

"We're gonna start that Monday after spring break. You know, come back from spring break at 6:30 on Monday morning and get a couple of hundred kids in here," he said. “That way, if we have a positive we can identify it, they wouldn't be subject to, you know, having to contact trace that.”

But with more student-athletes getting tested, it’s almost inevitable that more will test positive.

"Oh for sure yeah that's what we've seen in other sports is you know I already anticipate you know and not only for our school but our opponents," Dean said.

“I mean, this is something that's required by the state, we really don't have anything that we can do about it. But it's already ruined some of the kid's hopes and dreams. Just because covid so, it's a big deal but at the same time it's ruining people's lives," Meeks said. "If you have COVID you just have to sit out and the people who test negative, the people who test negative I think they still get to play.”

Athletes will have to sit out... in a time where the games mean a lot.

"If our girls basketball wins tonight, they play on Monday, they may actually have to test which that makes me a little uncomfortable, because they haven't tested all year. And now it's a big game that you know, the state quarterfinals," Dean said.

Tana: So, would they be disqualified?

"There was a couple they said they had to forfeit all because of COVID," Dean said. “That would be disappointing for a team to get that far to your season and have you know, you're kind of your pinnacle, and now you just don't even get the chance to go compete. I think that would probably be about as frustrating, as heartbreaking as can get for, for those athletes.

"We haven't missed any games right now I think we are 15 or 16," Meeks said.

Now his team is making the state championship.

"We never had to test is like a team or any type of sports. Up until now, because it really didn't become a big deal until the playoffs, to make sure everybody stays safe," he said.

Tana: This year the worst possible thing that could have happened was that you didn't have any games, you were quarantining whatnot, but that just never happened right?

"Yeah yeah that could be the worst possible scenario," Meeks said. “I will say I'm not really worried about my team I have faith that we have been doing the right thing and staying at home and one our math. But as far as other teams I don't know because I don't know what they're doing. I just hope that it doesn't.”

“I think they understand it you know they want to compete and they want to be able to play and that's just a requirement," Dean said. “I see the validity in it. You know, it is a good thing and the fact that we can identify and kind of nip it in the bud.”

Michiganders including those 16 and older will be able to get vaccinated as soon as next week. We’ll just have to see what happens with spring sports. 

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