The Minnesota State High School League voted Tuesday to alter sports for this fall to address concerns around COVID-19.
The most significant changes will move volleyball and football to the spring while the rest of the fall sports will be significantly modified.
A Return to Participation task force was created by the board after the July 14 meeting to look into options and make two recommendations for each sport to be voted upon during Tuesday’s meeting.
A four-season plan will go into effect for 2020-21 which allows fall and winter schedules to go on as normal. Spring season will run mid-March to mid-May followed by a summer season from May through early July.
Volleyball and football will move to the spring season while the traditional spring sports (lacrosse, track, golf, softball, and baseball) will move to the summer season.
Fall sports like girls’ tennis, girls’ swimming and diving, cross-country, and soccer will begin as planned Aug. 17 but with a 30 percent reduction in contest and 20 percent reduction in the number of weeks of the season.
No scrimmages or invitationals will be allowed and events reduced to one-two games per week. A decision on a culmination of the season will come at a later date.
Specifically for tennis and cross-country, teams are allowed to take part in events with up to three teams participating. For swimming and diving, only one other team is allowed to compete.
Overall, the MSHSL suggests scheduling teams from only the same conference or general area to help reduce transportation concerns.
Plans for adapted soccer will be addressed through planning with the Minnesota Adapted Athletics Association and the MSHSL to figure out the best route forward. The state adapted floor hockey championships were the first state tournament canceled in March which was scheduled to play at Bloomington Jefferson High School.
Thoughtful consideration and discussion by the Board of Directors and those involved in the decision-making process were torn between what the safest plan forward was while allowing students to reap the benefits of extra-curricular participation.
The board voted down an initial motion to move volleyball to the spring after a 9-9 tied vote led to a lack of a majority and therefore it failed. A second motion kept the original Aug. 17 start date but was defeated prompting a third motion which passed to move volleyball to the mid-March to mid-May season.
Football followed a similar path with multiple motions including the original Aug. 17 start date. Ultimately, a motion to move to the spring passed by a 13-5 margin.
As a result, the board is allowing volleyball and football programs to practice this fall in a limited capacity along with spring sports which lost their 2020 spring season and might have the 2021 season altered.
There was no discussion about moving spring sports to the fall and other details need to be addressed such as a culmination of the season and what that would look like with or without fans and at a neutral venue or something else.
As for the Return to Participation task force and the MSHSL board of directors, executive Eric Martens said every state is reviewing plans and making the best decision possible at that time in what is a fluid situation. “This group has done an amazing job,” Martens said. “They spent hours yesterday reviewing the plans another couple of hours last night with our executive committee.”
The task forced worked collaboratively with those stakeholders throughout the state to determine what a season should look like, how would interruptions in the season be handled, and more. They followed the guidelines set out by Gov. Tim Walz and the Department of Health and Department of Education for guidance which allowed for more localized approaches to find the right balance between safety, education, and allowing students to experience the benefits of extracurricular activities.
MSHSL Board of Directors treasurer Troy Stein, Activities Director at Edina High School said; “The debate in my mind is that we play fall sports as planned and still run a risk of outbreaks or push higher-risk sports to the spring and hope for better days ahead?”
He’s struggled with the options going back to the spring when everything was halted.