Sports have had to react on the fly to changes in the COVID-19 virus pandemic, and Minnesota high school athletics are no exception.
Team practices are not allowed through the end of next week, and a ban on competition is in place until early April. Many unknowns remain, but following are some of the things we do know about the near-term future of high school sports.
On hiatus through at least Friday, March 27, in keeping with Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order closing all Minnesota schools through next week. All games, scrimmages and practices are canceled. Coaches may not have in-person contact with athletes during this time although they can communicate with them electronically.
Athletes may work out on their own during this period, although not on school property. Coaches can provide individual workout plans, but they must be optional. Coaches cannot suggest athletes gather for captains’ practices or open gyms.
And then what?
The Minnesota State High School League has not said whether teams will be allowed to practice after March 27. Earlier, the MSHSL imposed a ban on games and scrimmages until April 6. However, starting games April 6 seems highly unlikely in light of Sunday’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that gatherings of 50 or more people be postponed for eight weeks. Also, college and professional sports organizations have announced suspensions of play until at least May, and in some cases longer.
How did we get here?
As recently as the middle of last week, Minnesota high school sports were proceeding as normal. Then things started to shift. On March 9 the NBA announced it was suspending play indefinitely after a player – later identified as Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert – tested positive for the coronavirus. A second Jazz player also tested positive, as did several members of the Brooklyn Nets.
The first day of the state girls basketball tournament took place March 11 with no modifications. The next day the MSHSL announced that remaining girls basketball tournament games and boys basketball section playoff games would be played before limited crowds. Girls basketball consolation and third-place games scheduled for March 13-14 also were canceled. In addition, the state adapted floor hockey tournament was called off out of concern for what the MSHSL called “the unique health situations of many of the student participants and their families.”
On the morning of March 13 the high school league canceled what remained of the girls and boys basketball seasons. Almost all states that had not already completed their winter sports seasons did the same thing.
Were other youth sports affected?
Yes. Minnesota Hockey canceled its youth state championships scheduled for last weekend. Minnesota Youth Athletic Services did the same for its state basketball championships. AAU basketball will be on hold. The Burnsville-based Northern Lights Volleyball Club was scheduled to hold a national tournament qualifier over two weekend in April at Minneapolis Convention Center. The club is looking into the possibility of holding the tournament Memorial Day weekend.
Forecast for spring prep sports
Hazy, at best. If the MSHSL follows the CDC recommendation of an eight-week moratorium on large groups, that would run until early May, or just before the start of section competition for many spring sports. State tournaments are held in early to mid-June.
The MSHSL has not said what it might do with spring sports that are lightly attended and held outdoors, such as golf and boys tennis. Lacrosse has yet to have the regular season disrupted; boys and girls teams cannot practice before March 30.