Typically, the beginning of a school year is full of anticipation, excitement and perhaps some nervousness. A fresh year, new classes, seeing friends again usually has the school bustling with a great atmosphere. Student athletes are excited to get their fall seasons going and the community spirit typically follows and gets behind their teams.
The beginning of the 2020-2021 school year has looked a lot different and felt a lot different. There are fall sports happening with restrictions and protocols that must be strictly followed. Cross country, swimming and girl’s tennis have gotten their seasons started and have been competing. However, there are two staple sports of the fall missing this year: football and volleyball.
In late July, the Minnesota State High School League made a decision to not have volleyball and football play this fall. A fourth season was added for these two sports that will take place from the middle of March to the middle of May. The typical Minnesota spring sports season will now be from the middle of May to the middle of July. The decision was of course controversial and not a popular one.
The area football and volleyball coaches are faced with how to try and make the best out of a tough situation. The Minnesota State High School League is allowing these programs to have up to 12 practices from Sept. 14 through Oct. 2 as a precursor to their seasons.
Dave Halvorson, head football coach in Ogilvie stated, “There are many rules we will have to follow so it may not be practice as usual. But we will have fall practices. Starting practice on March 15 may be very difficult. Without indoor facilities that some other schools enjoy it will be tough. Our players and coaches were very disappointed, some to the point of anger. It’s most difficult for the seniors and the kids that really love football.”
Mora’s head football coach, Troy Erickson sees it similarly, “I’m not sure how this is going to get pulled off. We may not be able to get on a field to practice until the middle of April. Our coaches and players are disappointed. We don’t know what kind of season we’ll have, if any. We’ll have our players come in and lift for a few practices. Then we’ll get out on the field for some fall practices. We do have the benefit of the Wellness Center to hold practices in March and April if we’re not able to get on the field for practice due to the weather or really soft fields.”
As of Sept. 9, 35 of the 50 states are having football in the fall. Many states are reversing earlier decisions of not having football. Recent states that have reversed decisions are Colorado, Michigan, Kansas, Utah, Florida, Alabama and Ohio. Minnesota is the only northern climate state that will try to play football in the spring.
As an indoor sport, volleyball does not have to worry about the conditions of their playing surface. But there are still challenges to having a season uprooted and moved to a different part of the season.
Lisa Gustafson, head volleyball coach at Mora said, “Senior high volleyball practiced this summer and we discussed the possible fall scenarios. Although we would rather be playing our normal season right now, we understand the MSHSL decision regarding safety and moving volleyball to the spring. We did not want to have an interrupted or canceled season this fall, especially with all the uncertainty surrounding hybrid and distance learning school schedules. We are staying positive and hoping that by the spring schools and communities will have a better handle on COVID-19 so that volleyball will get as much of a regular season as possible.”
“We will hold some practices this fall for any senior high player that can attend. We may split into special groups like setters on a few occasions. Some athletes joined a different current fall sport, too.”
Pam Nickels, head volleyball coach in Ogilvie said, “We are holding practice starting on Sept. 15. Everyone is disappointed in the decision that was made. Our team worked hard this summer and was looking forward to putting it all together this fall. We are all excited to get back together and practice. I understand why they made the decision they did but, AAU played all summer with no problem. I wish they would have just given us a chance to play volleyball.”