REGIONAL – The Minnesota State High School League board of directors voted in a Tuesday morning teleconference to move football and volleyball seasons to the spring in response to concerns over …
REGIONAL – The Minnesota State High School League board of directors voted in a Tuesday morning teleconference to move football and volleyball seasons to the spring in response to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seasons for both sports will be reduced to 12 weeks in length, with a reduced number of games that will be played primarily within district and subdistrict schools.
Minnesota joins an increasing number of states that have either delayed or moved fall sports in response to the pandemic.
The move comes as school districts statewide are in the midst of deciding if they will start the year with in-person classes, distance education, or a hybrid combining the two. MSHSL Executive Director Erich Martens noted that approximately 10 counties currently have COVID-19 new cases averages high enough that would force schools in those counties to open in distance learning mode, which would make them ineligible to have any in-person sporting activities.
Martens emphasized that the goal of the board was to preserve as much opportunity for students to compete in educationally based sporting activities as they could. Moving football and volleyball to the spring increases the chances that schools won’t have their seasons cut short by COVID-19 cases.
A “fourth season” was created for spring football and volleyball, falling between winter and traditional spring sports, with baseball and softball seasons extended into July.
Numerous board members expressed concerns about how the move would affect student athletes who compete in multiple sports, fearing the arrangement will force many to choose just one sport in which to compete. Others pointed out that the new volleyball season conflicts with the traditional volleyball club season, which would prevent some student athletes from participating in both. One
Rural and northern areas of the state could have difficulty in implementing the change, some members said, because of winter conditions forcing shared use of indoor spaces for practicing. Some smaller schools may have to double-up in using outdoor facilities as well.
The vote to move volleyball to spring initially failed when the board vote was tied, but after a motion to start in the fall was defeated, the board reconsidered a spring start and passed it 11-7.
An initial motion to have football in the fall was defeated 12-6, with discussion noting that football had the highest risk of contact and COVID-19 transmission among all fall sports. A subsequent motion to move football to the spring passed 13-5.
Concerns for student health and implications for how sports-related COVID-19 cases could affect general education in districts weighed heavily among those voting to push football and volleyball to the spring.
Martens also noted that schools that start the year with a different learning model that would have to move to mandatory distance learning because of increased COVID-19 cases in their counties also would have to terminate their seasons.
Individual fall sports of swimming and diving, girls tennis, and cross country were approved to begin Aug. 17, and likewise will have shortened seasons and restricted competition.
In order to provide opportunities for activities and contact between students and coaches, the board voted to direct the league eligibility committee to develop guidelines to allow fall and spring sports to have additional practices outside of their designated seasons.
No decisions on postseason competition such as sectional and state playoffs, meets, and tournaments were made Tuesday, with the motions allowing for future planning that can take into consideration future developments in guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health and Department of Education regarding the coronavirus pandemic.