MHSAA Connecting at Junior High Level

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 6, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Signs and banners were displayed at stadiums. Announcements were made to the crowd.

And most of all, questions were answered concerning the current role of the Michigan High School Athletic Association in junior high/middle school athletics – and the increased role the Association would like to take on in the future.

Throughout May, the MHSAA served as presenting sponsor at junior high/middle school track & field meets at Ravenna, Harrison, Grand Blanc and Saginaw White Pine Middle School.

This sponsorship pilot program was a first step on the path to making stronger connections with student-athletes before they reach high school. The MHSAA provided meet management with banners and other signage to hang at the events, and public address announcements on sportsmanship, multi-sport participation, officials recruitment and other notable topics affecting competitors and their families.

Also made available were printed materials on sportsmanship, officials recruitment and the benefits of taking part in junior high/middle school sports. And as part of the opportunity, the MHSAA donated grants of $500 to help with the administration of those meets – again, all in the name of getting the MHSAA message in front of students years before they reach high school.  

“I couldn’t believe how many people did not realize middle schools were connected to the MHSAA. That in itself was huge for publicity,” said Damon Amey, athletic director at White Pine. “I feel that if they know we are members, they immediately know we follow a set of rules. We are student-first oriented.”

The MHSAA served 740 junior high/middle school members, plus 24 elementary schools with 6th graders participating, during the 2016-17 school year – up from 705 junior high/middle schools only a year before.

Junior high/middle schools long have been eligible for membership in the MHSAA. An entire section of the MHSAA Handbook is dedicated to them. But the Association also has turned a heavier focus toward that level over the last four years.

The MHSAA Representative Council approved the creation of a Junior High/Middle School Task Force during its December 2013 meeting, and that task force was instrumental in the addition of 6th grader participation this past school year and the lengthening of contests in some sports. The Council this spring approved a recommendation by the Junior High/Middle School Committee (a permanent committee separate from the task force) urging all MHSAA sport committees to consider opportunities to add more games and dates to middle school schedules.

Last month’s sponsorship pilot program also stemmed from this recent work.

“We need to, for the future of high school sports, get more involved at the junior high/middle school level,” said MHSAA assistant director Cody Inglis, who oversees the Junior High/Middle School Committee and led the task force. “It’s not a matter of should we, but how quickly can we get involved.”

Inglis served as something of an ambassador in setting up and attending multiple sponsored junior high/middle school meets. Because of the perception that the MHSAA is mostly associated with high school athletics, Inglis noticed some curious and questioning looks in response to the visible presence of the Association at those meets.

But there were more positives, by far. On multiple occasions, the winners of the meets asked to have their team photos taken with the MHSAA banner on the field. One team took individual photos of each athlete holding the trophy in front of the banner as well.

While not many, Inglis did have conversations about officiating with a handful of interested people – good news as the MHSAA is always in pursuit of adding to those numbers. And his presence gave fans an opportunity to ask about the MHSAA’s role both at the high school and junior high/middle school level – and gave him the opportunity to explain how the Association works and dispel some myths.

“I love the fact that the MHSAA was at our conference track meet,” Montague NBC Middle School athletic director Jay Mulder said. “Cody did a great job in talking with parents, athletes and coaches. The presence was just enough to get people to take notice of the MHSAA.

“As a middle school AD and a middle school coach, I am very encouraged and excited to see the active role that the MHSAA is taking with middle school sports. I think that it bodes well for the future.”

Amey noted a number of opportunities with printed materials and championship medals that could further promote the MHSAA’s messaging at junior high/middle school meets. Also part of future plans is the recruitment of regional “ambassadors” – retired coaches, athletic directors and officials would be among candidates – who will travel to junior highs and middle schools in their areas and grow connections at that level.

As members, junior highs and middle schools receive the structure and support of MHSAA rules and governance, and every athlete receives catastrophic and concussion care insurance managed by the MHSAA. More interaction by these ambassadors could lead to more membership – the meet at White Pine, for example, included nearly half non-MHSAA schools – and also more benefit to members, be it additional sponsorship, off-field programs or even MHSAA-created championship events to give those athletes more opportunities to shine at this lower level and as they work toward taking that big step to high school.  

“It’s been like a light bulb has gone off,” Inglis said. “The brand of the MHSAA is viewed as a high school-only brand, and it was humbling to see the power in that brand as people look to the ultimate goal.

“However we can parlay that into more of a presence and use that brand to get involved in school sports at the younger levels, that helps in that transition.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Students from Grand Blanc West Middle School, Fenton Schmidt Middle School and Linden Middle School stand together with an MHSAA banner during the Flint Metro League meet last month. (Middle) The Montague NBC Middle School girls track & field team poses with a banner after winning the West Michigan Conference championship. (Photos courtesy of the Grand Blanc and Montague schools’ athletic departments.)

Rep Council Approves Sponsorship of New Sports, Adjusts Winter Schedule at Spring Meeting

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 9, 2024

The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association took several actions during its Spring Meeting, May 5-6 in Gaylord, including approving the addition of boys volleyball and girls field hockey to the lineup of MHSAA-sponsored tournament sports beginning in 2025-26 and reorganizing the winter championship calendar to end one week earlier.

The Spring Meeting of the 19-member legislative body of the Association’s more than 1,500 member schools is generally the busiest of its sessions each year. The Council considered 28 committee proposals and dealt with a variety of eligibility rule, postseason tournament and operational issues.

After a yearlong conversation about emerging sports at MHSAA member schools, the Council approved a Volleyball Committee recommendation to begin sponsorship of boys volleyball with the 2025-26 school year. The Council also voted to begin sponsorship of girls field hockey beginning with 2025-26. Girls field hockey will be played during the Fall season, and boys volleyball during the Spring season, with the 2024-25 school year to serve as a development period as the MHSAA works with the current governing organizations for those sports. These will be the first sports added to the MHSAA’s tournament offerings since girls and boys lacrosse joined the lineup during the 2004-05 school year.

Changes to the MHSAA Winter Calendar will take effect in 2025-26 and include several adjustments to Finals schedules and practice starts that overall will lead to the winter sports season ending one week earlier – reflecting a fall survey that showed nearly 80 percent of MHSAA member schools felt the winter should be shortened. The reshaped winter sports calendar also completes competition before schools begin their spring breaks – which are being scheduled earlier than in the past – and places championships on dates that avoid potential facility conflicts.

Beginning with 2025-26, the last weekend in February will include the Team Wrestling, Bowling and Competitive Cheer Finals (with Skiing Finals remaining on the Monday of that week). The first weekend in March will include the Individual Wrestling, Boys Ice Hockey and Girls Gymnastics Finals. The Boys Basketball Finals will move to the second weekend of March with the Lower Peninsula Boys Swimming & Diving Finals, and the Girls Basketball Finals will permanently conclude the winter season during the third weekend of March. The Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving Finals will remain in mid-February. With basketball seasons ending earlier, basketball practices will be able to begin five days earlier (on a Wednesday) to keep tryouts/first practice dates from falling during Thanksgiving week.

More changes to MHSAA Tournament competition will begin in 2024-25. The Council voted to add a team championship for girls wrestling to be awarded to the school with the most success in the girls bracket of the Individual Finals. A girls individual bracket was added for the 2021-22 season, and the team championship will be awarded based on individual finishes similarly to how boys team championships were awarded before the dual format Finals were created with the 1987-88 season. Also for 2024-25, the Council approved Basketball and Soccer Committee recommendations to seed the entire District tournaments in those sports using Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) data, which previously was used to seed only the top two teams in each bracket for girls and boys basketball and girls and boys soccer.

The Council also approved a classification change in football intended to protect the state’s smallest schools sponsoring the 11-player format. Continuing a conversation from its Winter Meeting in March, the Council approved a Football Committee recommendation to cap the enrollment of Division 8 schools at 250 students, and then divide the rest of the 11-player schools evenly to determine the enrollment lines for the other seven divisions. As more small schools have switched to 8-player, larger schools have shifted into Division 8 for 11-player – and this change guarantees Division 8 schools will play only similarly-small schools during the postseason, taking effect with the 2025-26 school year.

To continue supporting schools providing teams at multiple levels despite low participation, the Council voted to allow athletes in two more sports to compete on teams at two levels on the same day. The Council approved a Bowling Committee recommendation allowing bowlers to participate in subvarsity and varsity competition on the same day, provided the events are separate – bowlers may still be listed on only one match roster and bowl for one team during each event – and also approved a Girls Lacrosse Committee recommendation to allow athletes to play in no more than five quarters in one day, with overtime an extension of the fourth quarter. At multi-team girls lacrosse tournaments where both school teams are playing, an athlete would be allowed to play in as many halves or quarters as what the school’s highest team level that day is playing.

The Council bolstered the penalty for inappropriate behavior toward game officials, approving an Officials Review Committee recommendation modifying the penalty for any coach or athlete who is ejected for spitting at, hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing or intentionally and/or aggressively physically contacting a game official at any time during that competition or after being ejected. The offending coach or athlete shall be suspended from competition for the next 14 calendar days and must complete an online sportsmanship course. The offending coach also will not be eligible to coach in the MHSAA Tournament for that sport during that season, nor be allowed to be present at the site or within sight, sound or communication of a tournament event for that team.

Here is a summary of other notable actions taken by the Representative Council at the Spring Meeting, which will take effect during the 2024-25 school year unless noted:


• The Council approved a change to the athletic-related transfer (link) rule stating that an athlete is ineligible in all sports participated in during the current or previous school year if that student has transferred to a school where a coach is employed who previously was a school employee or third-party contractor at the athlete’s former school. This change of language bolsters the regulation to include links to a coach at the new school who previously was employed in any way by the previous school.

• The Council approved a change to the football practice and competition rule to state that a school may not take part in an interscholastic scrimmage with another school until the Wednesday of the second week of practice and only if the team has conducted football practice on at least seven separate previous days. A joint practice with another school is considered a scrimmage and may not take place until those seven days of practice have been completed.  

Sports Medicine

• The Council approved a Sports Medicine Advisory Committee recommendation to require high schools to attest by each season’s established deadline that their high school sports coaches have emergency action plans specific to location which are posted, dispersed, rehearsed, discussed and documented within their practice plans.

• The Council also approved a Committee recommendation requiring MHSAA Tournament host sites to have an AED (automated external defibrillator) within visible distance of the event.


• The Council approved an Officials Review Committee recommendation requiring a set minimum number of officials required to work an event, designated by sport and level (varsity or subvarsity).

Sport Matters

BASEBALL: The Council approved a Baseball Committee recommendation requiring varsity teams to submit their pitch count information electronically by noon the day following every game(s).

BOWLING: The Council approved a Bowling Committee recommendation allowing for Regionals – Team and Singles – to be competed on consecutive days between Wednesday and Saturday of that week to increase the possibility of more bowling centers being able to host. Previously Regionals could be bowled only on Fridays and Saturdays.

COMPETITIVE CHEER: The Council approved three Competitive Cheer Committee recommendations related to stunting while also prioritizing safety. In a braced suspended forward roll pyramid, the flyer and at least one bracer will be required to have a hand-to-hand/arm connection, with one or both hands/arms of the bracer connected to one hand/arm/foot of the flyer, and with this maneuver performed only to a cradle position or in a forward suspended role without twists.

Another change will allow a backward suspended roll when it originates from the cheering surface as long as both hands of the flyer maintain continuous hand-to-hand or hand-to-arm contact with the original bases or back spot.

A third change allows during an inversion the temporary loss of contact with the flyer while transitioning to a double-based sponge with both feet of the flyer in the hands of the bases, or to a cradle or shoulder-level or below stunt.

GOLF: The Council approved a Golf Committee recommendation to form a Golf Site Selection Committee to review Regional tournament groupings and determine host schools and courses.

SOCCER: The Council approved another Soccer Committee proposal to institute a running clock during the first half of matches when the goal differential is eight or more.

SWIMMING & DIVING: The Council approved a Swimming & Diving Committee recommendation requiring all times entered for MHSAA Finals for both individual and relay swim events to be the times that are the fastest achieved in varsity competition during the current season and electronically verifiable on

TENNIS: The Council approved a Tennis Committee recommendation requiring the MHSAA to reduce the number of Regional tournaments for a season from eight to six if the number of teams participating that season is fewer than 288.

TRACK & FIELD: The Council approved a Cross Country/Track & Field Committee recommendation allowing for athletes to qualify for MHSAA Finals by reaching predetermined standards during a window beginning April 1 of that season and extending until that athlete’s Regional meet.

WRESTLING: The Council approved a Wrestling Committee recommendation to amend the penalty for a team when a wrestler competes at an ineligible weight class during a dual event. If the ineligible wrestler is discovered during the involved match, that wrestler forfeits that match and the opposing team will be awarded six team points, plus the head coach of the team with the ineligible wrestler will be assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty resulting in a one-point team score deduction. If the ineligible wrestler is discovered after the involved match, any points earned by the offending wrestler are removed from the team score, along with the point for unsportsmanlike conduct, and six points are added to the offended team’s total. In both instances, neither wrestler involved in the match in question may compete again in that dual. If the ineligible wrestler is discovered after the dual is completed, the teams have left the mat area and the scorebook has been signed by the official, the results and team score will stand.

The Council also reviewed reports on membership, with 754 senior high schools and 774 junior high/middle schools in 2023-24 plus 60 elementary schools with 6th-grader participation; cooperative programs, with 392 high school programs for 720 teams during 2023-24; eligibility advancement applications, which totaled one; the use of Educational Transfer Forms, of which there were 128; school violations, attendance at athletic director in-service workshops and Coaches Advancement Program sessions; officials’ registrations (which were up 4.8 percent from 2022-23), rules meetings attendance, and officials reports submitted for the past three sports seasons. The Association’s $14.8 million budget for the 2024-25 school year also was approved.

The Representative Council is the 19-member legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities, and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee.

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.