Inside the OAA   

Covering all 22 OAA teams with insight and thoughts on each team from Northern Oakland County to Southern Oakland County.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


Mental Health Aspect-Opinion Piece.

Written Wednesday November 18th at 9:10 PM

What I’ve been hearing with coronavirus cases rising in the State. The State decided that a three week pause could help things however something else is brewing underneath everything that the media, state officials, or medical experts should look at.

The mental health and emotional component.

The mental health of student athletes is seriously at risk and that is a serious problem.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services medical executive Joneigh Khaldun, and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer put a pause in school sports among other things for three weeks on Sunday night.

I thought about what more mental anguish and sadness that these student athletes have to suffer thanks to these three.

Gordon said in the press conference that the reason why school sports were paused was because of contact risks. “We are suspending organized sports for three weeks because they bring together people in setting that often involve high levels of contact and exhalation and where individuals move from outdoors to indoors.”

I’m not buying what Gordon is saying at all. All schools do temperature checks and have “clear to go apps” even before they enter the building. Schools have done a great job keeping students and staff safe, I’ve seen it. This was all done behind MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl’s back. He wasn’t even consulted when the new restrictions came out.

Most health experts say that school sports can create “super-spreader events” because of the mixing but there is evidence out there that that is not the case. According to the MHSAA there was no evidence that the virus was spread at their events. Also there was no evidence that the virus spread through AAU events or any community wide outbreaks in those settings. Now there have been student athletes that have gone into quarantine don’t get me wrong because they were exposed or came close to someone who was exposed but there hasn’t been really any evidence of a community wide outbreak surrounding school sports.

It makes you think that Gordon was behind all of this all along.

In Ohio with their winter sports, they are going with everything as planned.

Whitmer forced the MHSAA’s hand in the spring as she shut spring sports down through executive orders which caused mental anguish for kids.

The MHSAA Executive Council and Uyl put together a plan that once the order was lifted they would resume all practices starting December 9th. Volleyball would have quarterfinals play on December 15th and would have the semifinals and finals on December 17th thru 19th at the Kellogg Center in Battle Creek. Girls Swimming and Diving would be conducted on December 22nd and 23rd with three high schools hosting one meet. Football regionals would be played December 15th and 16th followed by the State semifinals on December 21st and 22nd and the State Finals at Ford Field on December 28th and 29th.

Girls Basketball has already been in practice while the rest of winter sports haven’t started tryouts yet.

All of this could change if coronavirus case numbers don’t go down which would make this decision by Whitmer, Gordon, and Khaldun that much more heartbreaking and if they were to extend the epidemic order past December 8th.

I read an article about high school sports and mental health and it was a very interesting read. Mental health is not a one size fits all approach. As I read this article in the Indianapolis Star, there was a study out that said that 65 percent reported symptoms of depression and 36 percent showed that student athletes having moderate or severe anxiety.

Indiana assistant director for school mental health Kristy Eaton said in the article that “We need to be aware that depression and anxiety and feelings of isolation our kids and student-athletes are very much at risk right now. Research tells us that about one out of every five kids sitting in a classroom has a diagnosed or a diagonosable mental health condition. Add the stressors of the unknowns about COVID and you have a recipe for kids that may really start struggling with their own mental health.”

Mental health is not a one size fits all approach. Some kids respond to it differently than others but it can be very dangerous if something is taken away. “It can manifest in moodiness and irritability or an angry outburst often underlying that is fear. I don’t know what is going to happen next with this COVID thing. Sleep and hygiene issues can crop up. Same thing with eating issues, overeating-refusing to eat. You might see substance abuse. You might see or hear talk of suicide. Those are some of the warning signs that kids have gotten into a situation where it’s likely that they’re going to need some professional help” Eaton concluded.

Playing school sports helps the mental mind and has given student athletes a sense of normalcy but if sports were taken away it could lead to more bad than good. Playing sports also helps develop time management skills and team bonding.

I noticed that in Uyl and the MHSAA Executive Council. They looked at the mental health aspect of student athletes which is why they went ahead and kept things as normal as possible in August with no changes along with mask wearing and social distancing. Most student athletes are doing the right thing. I have a lot more questions for Whitmer, Gordon, and Khaldun. If they (Whitmer, Gordon, or Khaldun) want on my podcast, I’ll let them on or if they want to have a conversation, I have an email if they want to explain why school sports were paused and the mental health aspects that student athletes face, I’m at

It is no doubt that student athletes belong in a school setting building relationships and bonds. Detroit University-Detroit Jesuit boys basketball coach Pat Donnelly wrote on Twitter a very interesting tweet that I really hope Gordon, Khaldun, and Whitmer read. “OPEN, Gyms for individual exercise. CLOSED, Organized sports, and fitness centers so why is it that we can’t host individual workouts for HS (high school) athletes??? Physical health, mental health, future opportunities (college.) And yes they can wear a mask and be socially distant.”

That’s a very good question. The MHSAA and State put the mask and social distancing guidelines in the fall. Schools and student-athletes have followed them to the bone to keep their seasons intact.

Maybe Whitmer, Gordon, and Khaldun didn’t think it through before deciding to shut sports down for three weeks or maybe they don’t care about the student athlete or their mental and emotional well being.

Maybe it’s time for Whitmer, Gordon, and Khaldun to explain the emotional and mental aspect that this is taking its toll on our student athletes. I would like to see more of that in the future.


The Indy Star article.

MHSAA Restart article.

Posted by Saginaw Bay at 6:07 PM