The spring sports season and teams’ 20-20 visions of winning section or state titles have been halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minnesota State High School League announced on March 25 that all high school activities including athletics are postponed until Gov. Tim Walz lifts his school closure declaration, which expires on May 4 at the earliest. As of March 25, the MSHSL has not made a decision on whether or not the spring sports season will be canceled.
Every athletic competition at Elk River High School, Rogers High School, Spectrum High School and Zimmerman High School has been suspended. Games including the Elk River baseball team’s “Battle for the River Boat Bell” against Anoka, originally scheduled for a 4 p.m. start time on April 7 at Target Field, has been postponed. The Zimmerman girls golf team, which was scheduled to compete for the first time this season, will have to wait at least another month to hit the tees for the first time in Zimmerman history.
With the possibility that the 2020 spring sports season could be delayed into mid-May, coaches are making adjustments and telling their athletes to be prepared if competition and practices are allowed to resume after May 4.
Spectrum boys and girls golf head coach Richard Sonterre said he wasn’t surprised at all by the MSHSL’s decisions to postpone spring activities. MLB, the NBA, the NHL and MLS have all suspended their seasons while the NCAA announced on March 12 that it canceled all winter and spring championships.
“I had already begun to prepare in the hopes that we’d have some type of opportunity to provide something to our kids in the way of e-learning for sports,” Sonterre said. “Golf unlike pretty much other sport is something that has a complexity of rules and etiquette that takes quite a long time to digest and understand. We spend every year, at least a week, in fact usually more in classroom activities at the beginning of the season introducing new players and refreshing older players on policies, procedures [and] rules and etiquette of sport.
“I had about 60 preselected rules, etiquette and procedure videos available on YouTube. I was able to provide those things we would have otherwise watched in the classroom to the athletes and I have no idea if any of them are actually watching them. At least I can feel good in a sense that we could provide them something if in fact they wanted to get the team ahead of the curve so that we don’t have to go back to these things once we are outside.”
Previously, the MSHSL declared on March 15 that no athletic activities of any kind would take place between March 18 and March 27. Practices would be allowed to resume after that date and games were scheduled to resume after April 6.
Zimmerman softball head coach Emily Zahn said the Thunder was devastated to hear that the season would be delayed.
“This is completely unprecedented and I understand that the Governor, the Department of Education and the MSHSL have to put our safety first,” Zahn said. “I think that most of my girls understood that. However, they were still incredibly disappointed when the news came through that our season would be delayed and drastically altered.”
Baseball has one of the latest state tournaments. The Class 4A championship game is scheduled for June 13 at 7 p.m. at Target Field. Boys tennis sections begin on May 11 and is the earliest spring sport to start.
While many students are multi-sport athletes across different seasons, Rogers trap shooting head coach Dirk Udee said that 95 percent of members of the trap shooting team don’t play other sports and will be the student-athletes hit the hardest by the delay.
“The hardest part about waiting is the unknown,” Udee said. “The worst part is if this season doesn’t happen, our seniors are the most impacted. This is it. This is their last chance. Others [will] have next season and two years, three years, whatever it is.
“We’re now at the point within the next week or so that will determine as a team if we have a season or not. We might cancel it. The league has talked about pushing back into a condensed season. They’re even considering having the season start in June, which for most people isn’t a viable option. A lot of kids will have summer jobs. You have vacations coming up. You have other summer camps [and] clinics. Strength and speed [conditioning] for other sports are beginning. Kids will have graduation. A lot of kids when the school year’s over, they’re done.”
As all of humankind waits for the curve to flatten and for life to return to normal in the coming weeks and months, Zahn said she wants her student-athletes to focus on their physical and mental health and never take high school athletics for granted again.
“We are going one day at a time,” Zahn said. “I told the girls that their job is to stay home, be healthy, and do your part to reduce the impact of this virus. We also want to support one another in the process.”