Basketball has done wonders for Ishpeming, Mich., high schooler Eric Dompierre, his father said.
“He gets a lot of his confidence from the fact that he gets in the games and he as a lot of support, not only from people here in Ishpeming, but people from all over the area are supportive of him,” Dean Dompierre told UpperMichiganSource.com.
Not long after Dompierre finished his junior season, earning UpperMichiganSource.com's Play of the Week honors along the way, Dompierre is fighting to be allowed to play as a senior.
Dompierre has Down syndrome and is already 19 years old as he finishes his junior year in school.
Unlike 23 states — including Oklahoma — Michigan does not have an exception to its age requirements for people like Eric.
If Dompierre were in Oklahoma, the outcome would be fairly clear with the proper documentation.
The first of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association's rules deals with age limitations.
A student reaching age 19 before Sept. 1 of a school year would not be eligible for competition in that season.
But there are several instances in which the OSSAA staff can grant a waiver to that requirement “upon demonstration of circumstances beyond the control of the student and the student's parents” that caused the student to be held back from starting school or advancing from one grade to the next.
The third of the exceptions is “substantial physical or mental disability.”
Even if a student qualifies for the waiver or exception, a student can be denied permission to participate in some or all activities if the student's size and development would present an obvious danger to other participants.
Michigan does not have an exception to their age rule for disabilities or for other reasons included in the OSSAA rules, such as designation as a transitional first grader, serious injury or illness or difficulty transitioning from a foreign language to English.
The Dompierres and the Ishpeming School District have made several proposals to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, but none have been fruitful.
The latest proposal asks the MHSAA to allow its member schools to vote on whether or not to allow waivers to the rule, similar to what is allowed in Oklahoma.
An online petition started by Dean Dompierre on Change.org has attracted more than 75,000 signatures.
Dean believes it is critical to his son's development that he be allowed to play basketball as a senior.
“If he told that he's not allowed to play anymore, I think he's going to lose a lot of that confidence,” Dean said. “And that's been a key to his development.”