The 2021 portion of the sports year should open with a bang for winter sports teams around the state.

On Wednesday, Dec. 16, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz lifted the ban on practices and events for amateur teams effective Monday, Jan. 4. Soon after Walz made his announcement, the Minnesota State High School League approved the start of in-person practices for winter sports and activities on that date.

As of press time, the MSHSL had not yet determined a start date for competition under this directive.

Soon after the November pause was announced, the MSHSL created three models to follow once sports were reinstated, and the Jan. 4 start date aligns best with Model 2.

In Model 2, dance – the only sport that had held formal practices before the Nov. 18 pause went into effect – would have a 10-week season, while boys swimming and diving would feature an 11-week season. Wrestling and gymnastics would see their seasons last 12 weeks, while hockey and basketball would have a 13-week season.

“While we recognize that our students, coaches and families are anxious to return to activities and athletics, the Jan. 4, 2021, date aligns well with many member schools’ calendars as they return from extended breaks,” MSHSL Executive Director Erich Martens said in a release announcing the Jan. 4 resumption of practice. “This opportunity to participate in athletics and activities also comes with great responsibility. It is critical that all students, coaches, directors and officials maintain the highest standard of health and safety, both in and outside of school.

“Everyone must actively share the responsibility of reducing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping themselves and others safe and healthy.”

The MSHSL said member schools do have the option to begin in-person participation at a later date if that decision best aligns with their district’s COVID-19 response plan.

The MSHSL also has not officially announced plans regarding the number of spectators allowed to attend events, the number of teams permitted at competitions, or other safety precautions that would need to be enforced. It also did not determine the status of section or state tournaments for the winter sports.

With the exception of volleyball, fall sports around the state were able to hold section tournaments, at least to some degree, but state tournaments were not played.

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