(New Buffalo, MI) - The head coach of the New Buffalo High School varsity boys’ basketball team is among the coaches statewide planning a peaceful protest in Lansing on Saturday. Nate Tripp said the governor and other decision makers will be asked to allow high school girls and boys basketball players to begin competition on February 1.
Players have been allowed to take part in non-contact practices since January 16 while anticipating games would begin on Monday. The start of competition, though, was pushed back to February 21st last week by Governor Gretchen Whitmer as part of her latest COVID-19 order allowing restaurants and bars to reopen for indoor dining at 25-percent capacity on February 1.
Tripp said the state has already moved back the start of the season several times and the letdown for players and their families seems more difficult each time. “It’s not that we’re not playing. It’s that we’ve been told we’re going to play and we’re going to play and we’re going to play then it keeps getting delayed. It’s been hard to stay focused,” Tripp said.
Emotionally, Tripp said things reached the point where some of his players began questioning whether they wanted to continue practicing under such uncertainty. Tripp said he let his players vote and all of them decided to stay the course. “I’m going to go to the Capitol. I don’t know how many players are going. I did not make that a requirement. I certainly did suggest that if they are fed up by any stretch of the imagination this is our opportunity to have our voices heard,” he said.
Tripp said he and some of his players have already reached out to state representatives in the House and Senate from the area along with agencies such as the governor’s office to let their feelings known.
Officials involved with the basketball program in Coopersville are behind the demonstration and rallying support from other school districts to attend. “From what I’m gathering, it could be quite a large turn out,” he said.
Tripp said the football and volleyball seasons in Michigan going well in the fall showed high school sports can be played safely. He said adding to the frustration is knowing winter sports are being played in a vast majority of states, including right across the Michigan line. “How come Indiana can do it but we can’t” he said.
Tripp said games not starting until late February could push back the beginning of spring sports, cancelled last year early in the pandemic. “Do we play five games and then the tournament or can we still get 12 to 15 games in. So, something is going to have to give here with this latest delay.
Sadly, the ones that are going to suffer are those who put in the time. These kids who are seniors now, I’ve worked with them since the 7th grade. They’ve done everything that I’ve asked in terms of sacrificing. These young kids just keep giving and giving and giving. At some point, I think we need to give back to them and that think that point is now,” Tripp said.