By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The first, largest and longest-running program of its type in the country, the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Women In Sports Leadership Conference will take place Feb. 2-3 at the Crowne Plaza Lansing West.
The 24th edition of the conference again will feature three keynote speakers and a variety of workshops. The program annually attracts upwards of 500 participants, most of them high school female student-athletes. High school students, coaches and administrators are invited to find registration information on the MHSAA Website.
Cost is $50 for students and $60 for adults, not including lodging for those intending to stay overnight in Lansing. A registration form for lodging also is available on the MHSAA Website.
The theme for this WISL Conference is “The Courage to Lead” – and the opening address will be delivered by two-time Olympic women’s soccer gold medalist Lindsay Tarpley. She led Portage Central to the MHSAA Division 2 championship as a sophomore in 2000, was named college soccer’s National Player of the Year in 2003 after leading University of North Carolina to the NCAA Division I title, and played for the U.S. national team until retiring in 2011. She will speak on setting high standards and challenging one’s self to be a leader throughout life.
Michigan State University women’s volleyball coach Cathy George will challenge participants to embrace a growth mindset and believe in themselves and their potential while speaking at the WISL Banquet during the evening of Feb. 2. George recently completed her 15th season at MSU and 33rd overall as a college head coach. Her 288 wins at MSU are the most in program history, and she has a career record of 653-429 – counting also 11 seasons leading Western Michigan University, five at University of Texas-Arlington and two at North Dakota State. She has taken 15 teams to the NCAA Tournament, including MSU to the Elite Eight in 2017 and Texas-Arlington to the Final Four in 1989. As an athlete, George was a team captain and three-time all-league selection at Illinois State, helping the Redbirds to three NCAA Tournament appearances.
Michigan’s 43rd Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson will speak during the opening session Feb. 3 on expanding opportunities for girls and women as athletes, coaches, sport executives and leaders. She chairs Michigan’s Task Force on Women in Sports, which brings together local and national leaders to develop strategies that support and promote opportunities for girls and women in athletics, and is a founding board member and former CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality. Benson is a graduate of Harvard University Law School and expert on civil rights law, education law and election law. As dean of Wayne State University Law School, she was the youngest woman in U.S. history to lead a top-100 accredited law school, and she became in 2015 one of the youngest inductees into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
Workshops offered during the WISL conference include topics on coaching, teaching and learning leadership; sports nutrition and performance, and injury prevention; empowerment and goal-setting, and building team chemistry and program culture. A complete itinerary is available on the MHSAA Website.
The WISL Banquet will include the presentation of this year’s Women In Sports Leadership Award. The winner will be announced later this month.
Follow the #WISL hashtag on Twitter to learn more about the conference’s activities.
With the first girls basketball games, wrestling matches and ski races joining the event schedule this week, an estimated 65,000 athletes will be competing across the 13 sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments.
Girls basketball tipped off Monday, Dec. 4, and the first boys and girls wrestling meets may take place Wednesday, Dec. 6. The first girls and boys ski races may begin Saturday, Dec. 9, when they will join competition already underway in boys basketball, girls and boys bowling, girls competitive cheer, girls gymnastics, boys ice hockey, Upper Peninsula girls swimming & diving, and boys swimming & diving across both peninsulas.
The MHSAA winter schedule concludes this 2023-24 school year with the Girls Basketball Finals on March 23. This will be the first time since 2018-19 that the girls basketball tournament will finish the winter season, a switch made necessary by the start of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament March 22-23 and the possibility Michigan State University could host first-round games at the Breslin Center, where the MHSAA plays both its girls and boys basketball Semifinals and Finals.
Three more sports will incorporate changes this season related to MHSAA Tournament format or qualification.
For girls and boys bowling, Regionals will be conducted at eight sites – instead of the previous six – with each site qualifying to Finals its top two team finishers and the top seven singles for both girls and boys competitions. For the Team Bowling Finals, match play has been switched to a head-to-head, best-of-five Baker game format, whereas previously the format included regular games rolled by individual bowlers.
In girls gymnastics, an addition to criteria is expected to classify gymnasts more accurately as Division 1 (most skilled/experienced) or Division 2 for MHSAA Tournament individual competition. Athletes who have previously competed in a non-school event at either the Sapphire or Diamond Xcel levels would be required to compete at the Division 1 level for MHSAA postseason competition. These designations were added to other criteria used to determine an individual competitor’s division.
A change that led to much larger event fields at the Lower Peninsula Girls Swimming & Diving Finals this fall is expected to produce the same at the LP Boys Swimming & Diving Finals this winter. Beginning this season, qualifying times have been determined based on the past five years of MHSAA race data, but also accounting for past numbers of qualifiers in each swim race – which should, as with the girls, allow for more boys to advance to the Finals in events where fields have not been full over the previous five seasons.
Additionally, the Competitive Cheer Finals will return to its traditional Friday-Saturday schedule, March 1-2 at McGuirk Arena at Central Michigan University, with Division 1 on Friday and Divisions 2-4 on Saturday.
This regular season, wrestlers have two more opportunities to compete. Teams are allowed two more dual meets (between two teams only, not to be converted into three or four-team meets), bringing the total allowed days of competition to 16 with no more than eight of those allowed for tournament-type events where a wrestler competes more than twice.
At those tournament-type events, wrestlers may now compete in up to six matches on one day of competition (as opposed to the previous five matches per day) – but an athlete may not wrestle in more than 10 matches over two consecutive days.
An adjustment to the awarding of free throws in basketball is likely to be the most noticeable in-game change for any winter sport this season. One-and-one free throws have been eliminated, and fouls no longer will be totaled per half. Instead, fouls are totaled and reset every quarter, and two free throws are awarded with the fifth foul of each quarter.
The 2023-24 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 17 and wraps up with the Girls Basketball Finals on March 23. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:
Districts – Feb. 26, 28, March 1
Regionals – March 5, 7
Quarterfinals – March 12
Semifinals – March 14-15
Finals – March 16
Districts – March 4, 6, 8
Regionals – March 11, 13
Quarterfinals – March 19
Semifinals – March 21-22
Finals – March 23
Regionals – Feb. 23-24
Finals – March 1-2
Districts – Feb. 16-17
Regionals – Feb. 24
Finals – March 1-2
Regionals – March 2
Finals – March 8-9
Regionals – Feb. 19-28
Quarterfinals – March 2
Semifinals – March 7-8
Finals – March 9
Regionals – Feb. 12-16
Finals – Feb. 26
Swimming & Diving
Upper Peninsula Girls/Boys Finals – Feb. 17
Lower Peninsula Boys Diving Regionals – Feb. 29
Lower Peninsula Boys Finals – March 8-9
Wrestling – Team
Districts – Feb. 7-8
Regionals – Feb. 14
Finals – Feb. 23-24
Wrestling – Individual
Districts – Feb. 10
Boys Regionals – Feb. 17
Girls Regionals – Feb. 18
Finals – March 1-2
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.