Minnesota high school football, volleyball seasons pushed to spring

The lights at the Pine City High School football field
The lights at the Pine City High School football field in Pine City, Minn., are switched on in April as part of the "Be the Light MN" campaign. On Tuesday, the Minnesota State High School League backed a plan to move high school football and volleyball to spring seasons this year in response to COVID-19.
Photo by Bill Christianson file

Updated: 6:12 p.m.

The Minnesota State High School League on Tuesday agreed to move high school football and volleyball to spring seasons this year while other fall sports maintain modified schedules in response to COVID-19.

The football and volleyball seasons will take place from March to May and spring sports will be pushed back to a May start. Practices will be allowed this fall with conditions.

Girls tennis, boys and girls cross country and girls swimming and diving, boys and girls soccer will be allowed to start Aug. 17. Indoor competitions will not have fans.

The changes are designed to limit exposure of athletes, coaches and officials to the highly contagious respiratory disease. All sports will see limits on the number of competitions and how many teams can participate in any single event.

League director Mike Domin said he's concerned about the risks of managing sports during a pandemic, but also wants to bring some normalcy to schools.

"I really want fall sports. You know why I want that? Because that's the way it's always been. We're not used to anything different, ever,” he said.

Charles Adams III, head coach at North High School in Minneapolis, said his main priority is keeping his athletes engaged and stable in a crazy time.

"It's heartbreaking, but you know something is better than nothing, so you know they have hope that this will just be delayed,” he said. “But we've got to keep training them and keep practicing with them and keep them ready and keep them ready for the season."

Russ Reetz, activities director at Prior Lake High School, said schools will still need to be prepared to shut down programs if players become infected.

"We had positive cases and had to shut down. In fact, we had to shut down every sport that was inside a gym this summer — boys basketball, girls basketball and volleyball,” Reetz said. “So those things weigh heavily on me as we consider the best path for getting our kids the best possible experience.”

Social media reaction to the change in football was mixed with some angered by the shift and others heartened that there would be games in the spring to watch and play.

“Not the decision we were hoping for today,” the Coon Rapids High School football team said on Twitter, adding that players “will overcome this and be ready when the time comes.”

The league did not decide what to do about post-season tournaments and meets, which typically feature many teams and spectators.

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