Football, volleyball must wait until spring for shot a season and a ‘better experience’
by Jim Boyle
Elk River boys and girls soccer will start practice on Aug. 17 as planned, but little else will go as planned this fall high school sports season.
The Minnesota State High School League on Aug. 4 decided to move football and volleyball to the spring and allow other fall sports to begin with limitations.
Soccer coach Brian Stueter said he was not surprised by the league’s decision. Nor would he have been surprised if soccer was postponed as well.
“I looked at it as a 50-50, go or no go,” he told the Star News after following the MSHSL voting process.
Steuter is a member of the Minnesota Soccer Association Board, but that didn’t give him a vote at the table or an inside track on what would be decided as the board met to vote on the fate of fall sports — one sport at a time.
Club soccer had resumed, but Steuter said he realizes the MSHSL has more responsibilities and liabilities to worry about.
The MSHSL Board stated soccer practices can begin on Aug. 17 (as scheduled) with 20% reduction in weeks, 30% reduction in number of competitions, no scrimmages and plans for one or two games per week. Decision on postseason events are yet to be determined.
“I’m happy for the kids, especially the seniors,” Steuter said. “We have ... kids who have been playing varsity together for 5-6 years.”
The idea of fewer games means there will be more time spent on training and coaching, “which isn’t all bad,” Steuter said. “Maybe it will work better.”
Football will get to practice, but the season doesn’t have a chance to get going before winter. Instead, it will become part of a modified spring schedule but the details still have to be hammered out.
Head football coach Steve Hamilton said it’s his hope for a system that doesn’t leave programs fighting over athletes.
Heading into the voting, Hamilton said he didn’t know what to expect, noting every day he was hearing a different take on what could or would happen.
He said he was hopeful the players would be given a chance to start the season, especially those who worked so hard to put themselves into a position to have a great year.
“Some of the discussion points (in favor of a spring football season) is it could be a better experience with fans and bands in the stands and possibly a state tournament,” Hamilton said. “Those things would not happen in the fall.”
Hamilton said he is happy for the kids that will get to compete this fall.
Girls tennis, cross-country and girls swimming and diving were approved by the MSHSL Board with the following limits:
•Limit of three teams in cross-country events.
•Limit two teams in tennis and swim/dive.
•Limit one or two events per week per team.
Elk River High school Activities Director Mike Cunningham said, listening to the meeting, it was pretty clear that the board wasn’t sure what direction they wanted to take, but it was “obvious they put a lot of thought in the decision and really struggled through it.”
Cunningham said he appreciated the creativity the MSHSL used to do their best to provide all sports an opportunity.
“This year will be unique, and things may change, but right now there is hope for everyone to have a season,” Cunningham said.
Now that the MSHSL has made these decisions, individual districts and high schools are now working to flesh out the details knowing they don’t know what the pandemic will bring tomorrow, but each have their own set of unique circumstances and facilities.
“The same thing that might work in a Zimmerman gym might not work in an Elk River gym,” Cunning ham said. “Every decision we make creates more questions we need to answer. We will keep working through it!”
Cunningham said school officials appreciate all of the understanding and patience parents have exhibited.
“The key to the year will be flexibility, and we will all be working hard to provide a positive experience for our students,” Cunningham said.