LANSING – Colin Parachek would have liked to spend his Friday night on a field trying to guide the Dexter football team to a season-opening victory and working to position himself for an opportunity to play in college.
Instead the quarterback found himself without pads and a helmet and standing on the steps of the Capitol in downtown Lansing speaking to a crowd and fighting for an opportunity to have a season this fall.
With football and several other fall high school sports not taking place in most of Michigan amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Parachek was among the many making their pleas for the competitions to resume again at the #LetThemPlay rally.
“Governor (Gretchen) Whitmer, Mr. (Mark) Uyl and the MHSAA representative council, we are here asking you to reconsider and reverse the decision to allow us to play football this fall,” Parachek said as he wrapped up his speech. “We know it’s not going to be easy and we know that there is a lot at stake for you, but I hope you can understand there is so much more at stake for us. We’ve already lost so much, but there’s still time to make this right. It is not too late. We can all do our jobs to keep each other and our communities safe. Please, let us play.”
Parachek’s message was the main theme Friday as a several hundred gathered fighting to save fall sports. The MHSAA postponed football to the spring earlier this month, while volleyball, boys soccer and girls swimming and diving in most of the state remains in limbo. Competition has not been authorized outside of the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula in those sports and the MHSAA is awaiting clearance from the governor’s office to move forward in the rest of the state.
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Coaches, athletes and parents from the Upper Penisula to all corners of the Lower Peninsula were part of the crowd that traveled to Lansing hoping to have their words heard at the rally. “Let us play” chants and shirts and signs displaying the same message were sported by several in attendance.
“This is about so much more than football,” said DeWitt junior football player Tommy McIntosh, who attended with a few teammates. “It’s about mental health of kids.
“There’s a lot of stuff that goes into just not knowing what is going to happen. The main goal is obviously we want a fall season, but we know that’s a longshot.”
Mason’s Katy Gilchrist, who has two sons in high school, played a part in organizing Friday’s event and said it was important for the group to try and have their voices heard in hopes of sparking change.
“These kids have been doing everything that they were told to do and then what do they get for it? Nothing,” Gilchrist said. “We’re here to advocate for them and do what we can and see what happens.”
If sports don’t return this fall, Mason football coach Gary Houghton is concerned about the negative impact it could have on student-athletes. That was part of his message as he spoke Friday.
“My sophomore season we had fall sports canceled because of a failed millage,” Houghton said while recalling an experience during his high school days in Addison. “What I saw happen is what I’m concerned about might happen here throughout the state. We had an increase in alcohol and drug use amongst teens that would normally be playing football. We had some issues with behavior. I’m concerned.
“The end message that I want to share is it’s never too late to do the right thing. We can get this turned around.”
DeWitt’s Linda Beachnau, who helped organize the rally, said the #LetUsPlay movement will continue and the group plans to keep pushing until all sports are back playing.
“We’re fighting for fall football right now,” Beachnau said.
“If we can’t get a response from the governor’s office to get clarification on what can happen for football and soccer and swimming and volleyball, we’re going to continue to fight and we’re going to continue to push. If we have to have more rallies, we’re going to continue to …