By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor
It certainly was not the MHSAA’s intent to spur the most historically frigid back-to-back winters the state has seen. Nor did the Association wish for one of the mildest summers in recent memory during 2014.
Seemingly, it’s just Mother Nature’s way of reading into MHSAA efforts for managing heat and humidity and acclimatizing student-athletes for warm-weather activities.
Since guidelines were put in place (recommended for regular-season sessions and required for postseason tournaments) before the 2013-14 school year, there have been relatively few days during which psychrometers have had to be implemented.
“The key is, we’ve got plans in place for when the climate returns to normal trends for return-to-school practices and contests in August and September, as well as early June events,” said MHSAA Executive Director Jack Roberts. “It is a bit ironic that there have been relatively few days since the guidelines were established that they’ve actually come into play.”
In a nutshell, the guidelines provide instruction for four ranges of heat index: below 95 degrees; 95-99 degrees; 99-104 degrees, and heat indexes above 104 degrees, with increasing precautions in place as heat indexes rise. An index above 104 calls for all activity to cease.
Certified athletic trainers Gretchen Mohney and James Lioy agree that recent requirements in heat and hydration guidelines are a step in the right direction and encourage that – when possible – an athletic trainer oversee the implementation. Simply taking a reading from just outside the AD’s office or at home does not simulate on-site conditions.
“This doesn’t take into account the radiant heat at the site, which can drastically affect the conditions that athlete plays in. It is essential that all parties involved in making decisions to play collaborate with one another,” Mohney said.
Heat-related deaths in athletics rank only behind cardiac disorders and head and neck injuries, but such fatalities might lead the way in frustration for families and communities of the victims. The reason? Heat-related illness is totally preventable.
Another source of mild frustration is the lack of recording within the state for those practice and game situations which warrant heat protocols.
When the Representative Council was formulating the Heat and Humidity Policy, it was also mindful of ways in which the MHSAA could assist schools in putting the plan into practice. Coaches, athletic directors and trainers needed a method to record information for athletic directors to view and for the MHSAA to track. The MHSAA developed interactive web pages on MHSAA.com which allow registered personnel to record weather conditions as practices and contests are taking place, using psychrometers.
Additionally, discounted Heat and Humidity Monitors and Precision Heat Index Instruments are offered to schools through a partnership between the MHSAA and School Health.
Yet, since the availability of such tools came to fruition two years back, fewer than 1,000 entries have been recorded, and many are multiple entries from the same schools.
Of the 772 entries, only 15 took place when the heat index was in excess of 104, while just 21 indicated an index of greater than 100. Cooler temperatures could be playing a factor in the overall number of participation, particularly in the northern areas of the state.
Nearly all of the responses came during fall practices, with a few isolated cases coming during the spring.
As Mohney pointed out, all resources must be properly used in concert with one another to achieve desired results.
Reminders of the tools available to schools are disseminated throughout the state each summer.
A first-of-its-kind mentorship program is greeting more than 100 first-time high school athletic directors who are officially beginning their tenures at Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools with the start of the 2023-24 school year.
The “AD Connection Program” has matched those first-year high school athletic directors with one of eight mentors who have recently retired from the field and will now provide assistance as those new administrators transition to this essential role in school sports.
A total of 102 first-year high school athletic directors are beginning at MHSAA schools, meaning a new athletic administrator will be taking over at nearly 14 percent of the 750 member high schools across the state. Athletic director turnover at MHSAA high schools has reached 10 percent or more annually over the last few years, and it’s hoped that this additional mentorship will support athletic directors adjusting to the high pace and responsibilities of the position for the first time.
The AD Connection Program will build on training received at the required in-service program all new athletic directors must attend each fall. There is also a strong connection to programming from the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA), the professional development organization for the state’s athletic administrators.
"When you crystalize it, the AD Connection Program is an attempt for us to give a true year-long in-service to new athletic directors with people who have done it,” said MHSAA Assistant Director Brad Bush, who is coordinating the program and joined the MHSAA staff in January after more than two decades as an athletic administrator at Chelsea High School. “This also connects new ADs with a larger professional group, and it will culminate in March at the annual MIAAA conference, where there will be several face-to-face meetings with all ADs.
“These mentors are meant to become that first-year AD’s go-to person.”
Mentors will conduct frequent meetings with their cohorts. They also will meet monthly (or more) with each first-time athletic director individually via zoom, and at least once during the academic year face-to-face at the mentee’s school.
The eight mentors, noting their most recent schools as an athletic director, are Chris Ervin (most recently at St. Johns), Brian Gordon (Royal Oak), Sean Jacques (Calumet), Tim Johnston (East Grand Rapids), Karen Leinaar (Frankfort), Scott Robertson (Grand Haven), Meg Seng (Ann Arbor Greenhills) and Wayne Welton (Chelsea). Leinaar also will serve as the AD Connection Program’s liaison to the MIAAA, which she serves as executive director.
High school practices at MHSAA member schools may begin today, Monday Aug. 7, for the nine fall sports for which the MHSAA sponsors a postseason tournament. The AD Connection Program was approved by the MHSAA Representative Council during its annual Winter Meeting on March 24.
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 1.3 million spectators each year.