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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Reversing field

Spring forward, fall back for prep sports caters to the masses

Posted 9/23/20

Chalk one up for the court of popular opinion. The masses have revolted, and the rulers have relented.Just a month and a half ago, the Minnesota State High School League board of directors, after …

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Reversing field

Spring forward, fall back for prep sports caters to the masses

Posted

Chalk one up for the court of popular opinion. The masses have revolted, and the rulers have relented.
Just a month and a half ago, the Minnesota State High School League board of directors, after extensive deliberations and scrutiny of all the available relevant information on COVID-19, made a difficult but well-reasoned decision to move the football and volleyball seasons from fall to spring.
On Monday, to use relevant phraseology, after listening to one of the nation’s top sports doctors and deliberating for hours they reversed field and brought both sports back onto the fall calendar.
So, what changed in the past six weeks? Perhaps John Millea, MSHSL staff writer, said it best on his Preps Today podcast after the meeting.
“Since Aug. 4, when the initial decision was made, nothing has really changed when you talk to medical professionals,” Millea said.
However, some things have changed. We’ve seen the overall case numbers in Minnesota grow by leaps and bounds the past two months, surpassing 90,000 this week. A good portion of that can be attributed to increased testing, but state health officials have for weeks been warning of an increase in community spread. Over the weekend, the state established a new record for single-day positive COVID-19 cases. The Trump administration has been openly critical of Minnesota’s level of cases relative to other states.
What also has changed is that school is now in session, and state health officials confirmed on Monday that 351 schools have been hit with coronavirus cases. Closer to home, an increase in COVID-19 cases in Ely caused the school district there to turn away from full in-class learning for middle and high schoolers in favor of a hybrid model with limited attendance. The day after that decision was made, two positive COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the school.
Meanwhile, due to a late summer surge, 15-to-19-year-olds now account for more overall COVID-19 cases in St. Louis County than any other age group except 20-to-24-year-olds.
What hasn’t changed in six weeks is that the coronavirus is as present a threat now as it was when the MSHSL chose to risk the ire of all by moving football and volleyball to the spring because it was the prudent move for the health and safety of the participants.
Given that none of the medical considerations have changed, what did? Simple: the intensity of the fire under the feet of the board.
Schools and parents let their dismay be heard. They pointed out, rightly, that all of the states surrounding Minnesota were playing football and volleyball this fall, and that numerous others had reversed decisions to delay them. They railed about how student-athletes were being deprived of all of the benefits these competitive sports provide, even though they would have seasons, just not in the fall. They took to the phones, sent emails, and went on social media to plead their cases to school administrators, the MSHSL, and anyone who might remotely affect the decision.
That the MSHSL board deliberated for hours before reversing their decision is sufficient evidence that they weighed more than just public opinion. But there’s little doubt that when four out of five schools responding to their survey said they wanted football and volleyball back in the fall, the MSHSL was predisposed to listen to its dues-paying members.
Still, people are unhappy. State health guidelines will keep volleyball fans from watching their teams in person – no spectators are allowed for indoor matches. Larger schools aren’t happy that they have to limit football crowds to 250 people. And those who believe the MSHSL is crazy and negligent for reversing itself flooded their phone lines with angry calls after the decision on Monday.
Was the MSHSL right to make the switch? From a pure public health perspective, probably not. There will be kids who get COVID-19 and there will be schools that are affected, that would not otherwise have been if they had left well enough alone. Kids, schools, families, and communities affected by a collective inability to simply delay the desire for competition for six months. Let’s hope it doesn’t become too much of a price to pay for the sake of playing games.

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