Decisions made on fall high-school sports season

Ben Stoterau
Longtime Redwood Valley Head Football Coach Matt Lundeen will have to wait for the spring to hit the gridiron.

It will be a year unlike any other when it comes to high-school sports in Minnesota, as the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) came out with its decision on the upcoming season Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 4).

The MSHSL Board of Directors met to discuss the 2020-21 fall activities season and, based on votes taken by the board, the following actions pertaining to fall sports were approved:

The fall 2020 season for soccer, girls swimming and diving, cross country and girls tennis were all approved with stipulations. All of those sports will have a reduction in the number of contests, limitations on the number of contests per week, no large invitational events and a post-season or season culmination yet to be determined.

“We’re still in the process of putting together the bones of a schedule right now,” Redwood Valley Activities Director Andy Ourada said. “It’s looking like potentially seven cross country meets and 11 girls tennis matches but all of that is still undetermined.”

The cross country meets will be limited to just three teams participating in each event and as mentioned, a postseason Section and state meet is still very much up in the air.

Football and girls volleyball, meanwhile, were unfortunately not given the ‘OK’ to move forward in the fall and will be moving to a “fourth season” at a yet to be determined time (most likely March through May and taking place following the completion of the winter sports season).

The exact dates are yet to be determined, but the framework allows for a shortened season sandwiched between winter sports and spring sports.

The timing could get interesting weather wise with an outdoor sport like football being played in March, and the move will also require that the spring sports season begin well over a month later than usual and running through into the summer (possibly into July).

“The league didn’t want to place football and volleyball on top of traditional spring sports so this is where we’re at,” Ourada said.“I don’t think anybody is completely sure exactly what it’s going to look like, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

The football and volleyball programs will be allowed to have limited practice only contact this fall. The length and dates will be coming in the near future.

Similarly, the league will be allowing spring sports the opportunity to have limited practice only contact this fall since they missed last spring.

According to Ourada, in the coming days and weeks, updated schedules for cross country, swim and dive (Redwood Valley is part of a cooperative with Marshall), and girls’ tennis will be posted on the district Web site.

At this time, those sports are scheduled to start practices Aug. 17. Announcements regarding the practice only sports will be made once the final parameters have been established.

According to the MSHSL, the first week of practice will focus on implementing effective protocols and routines for pre-participation screenings, effective social distancing, compliance with all health recommendations, establishment of pod limits of 25 or less and additional actions that mitigate the spread of disease and enhance safety of students and coaches.

Athletic programs must follow the identified protocols for students or coaches who have tested positive, are experiencing symptoms consistent with a COVID-19 diagnosis or who have had exposure to an individual who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The first day of competition is the later date Aug. 24 or the first possible date of competition as identified in the 500 series of MSHSL bylaws per each activity. Interscholastic scrimmages will not be allowed.

The number of teams involved in a competition will be limited to three teams.

Season length will be reduced to 80 percent or less of the limit identified in bylaw 501.

The number of competitions will be reduced to 70 percent or less of the limit identified in bylaw 501.

Competitions must be held with local opponents, defined as teams within a conference, district or section or are identified as local by school administration.

Competitions held with opponents from other states are required to meet the following:

Full compliance with all requirements of the MSHSL and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Opponents from other states may not exceed a distance greater than 75 miles from the Minnesota member school.

“The actions taken by the MSHSL are unprecedented in the history of the league,” Ourada said. “We know that there will be many conversations happening in local homes and there will be many questions. We will be learning more in the coming days about what the schedules for fall will look and what restrictions will be in place for football and volleyball in a practice only model for this fall. We will continue to communicate updates to the public as we get them.”