Winter Rules Changes Focus on Safety

December 6, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Seasons are underway for teams participating in 12 winter sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments, with a continuing focus on safety highlighting rules changes taking effect with the first days of competition.

Beginning with ice hockey’s first games Nov. 14, six sports started play during the final weeks of November, while the rest will be underway by the end of this week; Wrestling on Dec. 7 and Boys and Girls Skiing on Dec. 10 will be the final winter sports to begin competition.

Basketball, wrestling and ice hockey are among sports with noticeable changes to enhance safety this winter. In basketball, a change has been made to further protect the free-throw shooter from being displaced immediately after attempting a shot. Players occupying marked free-throw lane spaces may enter the lane on the release of the ball but may not touch or cross the free-throw line extended, into the semicircle, until the ball is released and touches the ring or backboard. Other players not occupying marked lane spaces may not have either foot beyond the vertical plane of the free-throw line extended and the 3-point line which is farther from the basket until the ball touches the ring or until the free throw ends. Both are designed to keep the free-throw shooter free from contact and alone in the semicircle directly following the shot attempt.

Also in basketball, non-playing personnel including cheerleaders, media and school supervisors must remain outside the playing area during a timeout 30 seconds or shorter. Non-playing personnel also must remain throughout the game in the areas between the free-throw lines extended and sidelines, to provide a safer environment free of possible collisions for both playing and non-playing personnel.  

Officials will be on the lookout in wrestling for a hold that could lead to a competitor being dropped to the mat after a lift without the ability to use his or her arms to break the fall because they are trapped as part of the hold. If a wrestler, from a standing position, is placed in a body lock with one or both arms trapped, the offensive wrestler is required to safely return that defensive wrestler to the mat through a variety of legal moves. Officials will stop the match if a lift is coming or imminent that would result in the defensive wrestler being unable to break his or her fall because of an arm trap.

Hockey contact to the head or neck area will be penalized with multiple levels of severity in 2016-17, depending on the extent and intent of that contact. If contact to the head or neck area is deemed to be direct – that is, with the initial force of the contact occurring to the neck or head area – that contact will be considered a flagrant foul and result in a major penalty or game disqualification. If the contact is deemed indirect – with the initial force of the contact beginning below the neck and progressing upward to the head or neck area – the result will be a minor penalty unless the indirect contact is deemed by officials to be flagrant, which again will result in a major or game disqualification.

Also of note in hockey, all players (excluding goaltenders) must now take a stationary position on all faceoffs before the puck is dropped. By eliminating motion prior to faceoffs, this rule change is designed to also eliminate any possible advantage gained by players previously working for better position.

The 2016-17 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments beginning with the Upper Peninsula Girls and Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 18, and wraps up with the Boys Basketball Finals on March 25. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:

Boys Basketball
Districts – March 6, 8 & 10
Regionals – March 13 & 15
Quarterfinals – March 21
Semifinals – March 23-24
Finals – March 25

Girls Basketball
Districts – Feb. 27, March 1 & 3
Regionals – March 7 & 9
Quarterfinals – March 14
Semifinals – March 16-17
Finals – March 18

Girls & Boys Bowling
Team Regionals – Feb. 24
Singles Regionals – Feb. 25
Team Finals – March 3
Singles Finals – March 4

Girls Competitive Cheer
Districts – Feb. 17-18
Regionals – Feb. 25
Finals: March 3-4

Girls Gymnastics
Regionals – March 4
Team Finals – March 10
Individual Finals – March 11

Ice Hockey
Pre-Regionals – Feb. 27-March 3
Regional Finals – March 3-4
Quarterfinals – March 7-8
Semifinals – March 9-10
Finals – March 11

Girls & Boys Skiing
Regionals – Feb. 13-17
Finals – Feb. 27

Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving
U.P. Girls & Boys Finals – Feb. 18
L.P. Boys Diving Regionals – March 2
L.P. Boys Finals – March 10-11

Team Districts – Feb. 8-9
Individual Districts – Feb. 11
Team Regionals – Feb. 15
Individual Regionals – Feb. 18
Team Quarterfinals – Feb. 24
Team Semifinals & Finals – Feb. 25
Individual Finals – March 2-4 

MHSAA High School Sports Participation Continues to Exceed Population Ranking Nationally

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 15, 2023

Michigan continued to rank 10th nationally in high school-aged population during the 2022-23 school year and continued to best that ranking in participation in high school sports, according to the annual national participation study conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

Michigan ranked ninth for overall participation nationally, based on a total of 268,070 participants who competed in sports for which the MHSAA conducts postseason tournaments. The total counts students once for each sport played, meaning students who are multiple-sport athletes are counted more than once.

Michigan also ranked ninth nationally for both girls (111,569) and boys (156,501) participation separately, while ranking ninth for high-school aged boys population and 10th for girls according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

Michigan’s national rankings in seven sports improved from 2021-22, while nine sports saw lower national rankings than the previous year. The biggest jumps came in girls volleyball and boys soccer, which both moved up two spots – volleyball to fourth-highest participation nationally, and boys soccer to eighth. Girls golf (fourth), softball (seventh), girls track & field (seventh), girls swimming & diving and boys swimming & diving (both eighth) also moved up on their respective national lists.

Participation in several more MHSAA sports also continued to outpace the state’s rankings for high school-aged population.

For girls, participation in bowling (fourth), tennis (fourth), cross country (sixth), basketball (seventh), competitive cheer (ninth) and soccer (ninth) all ranked higher than their population listing of 10th nationally. Among boys sports, bowling (second), ice hockey (fourth), tennis (fifth), golf (fifth), basketball (sixth), track & field (sixth), cross country (seventh), football – all formats combined (seventh) and baseball (eighth) exceeded that ninth ranking for population.

Only 11 states sponsor alpine skiing, but Michigan ranked third on both the girls and boys lists for that sport. Wrestling, with boys and girls totals counted together, ranked eighth.

Participation nationally rose more than three percent from 2021-22 to 7,857,969 participants, the first upward movement in participation data since the all-time record of 7,980,886 in 2017-18, which was followed by the first decline in 30 years in 2018-19 and the two-year halt in data collection by the NFHS related to the pandemic. (The MHSAA continued to collect and report its data during this time.) The national total includes 4,529,789 boys and 3,328,180 girls, according to figures obtained from the 51 NFHS member state associations, which include the District of Columbia.

Eleven-player football remained the most popular boys sport, and most popular participation sport overall, with the total climbing back over one million participants. The total of 1,028,761 participants marked an increase of 54,969 and 5.6 percent from the previous year. This year’s increase was the first in the sport since 2013 and only the second increase since the all-time high of 1,112,303 in 2008-09. There also was a slight gain (34,935 to 35,301) in the number of boys in 6-, 8- and 9-player football.

Next on the boys list were outdoor track & field, basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, cross country, tennis, golf, and swimming & diving, respectively.

On the girls side, outdoor track and field (up 6.5 percent) and volleyball (3.6) remained in the top two spots, while basketball reclaimed the third position. Cross country ranked fourth, followed by softball, soccer, golf, tennis, swimming & diving and competitive spirit, respectively.

Texas remained atop the list of state participation with 827,446, but California closed the gap in second adding 25,000 participants to climb to 787,697. New York is third with 356,803, followed by Illinois (335,801), Ohio (323,117), Pennsylvania (316,587), Florida (297,389), New Jersey (272,159), Michigan (268,070) and Minnesota (219,094), which climbed into the top 10 past Massachusetts.

The participation survey has been compiled in its current form by the NFHS since 1971.