For the past 58 falls, Ron Stolski roamed high school football sidelines.
During that tenure, he weathered through snow, rain, sleet, perhaps a few tornado warnings, but never did the former Brainerd Warriors head coach and current executive director of the Minnesota State High School Football Association have to deal with a pandemic.
That’s probably why he’s in favor of the decision made Tuesday, Aug. 4, by the Minnesota State High School League during a board of directors meeting to move football and volleyball to a makeshift spring season and condense all sports season 20% to accommodate the creation of this new season.
Simply put, he said it’s better than no football at all.
“I’m happy with this and I’m not so sure that this wasn’t the best decision,” Stolski said. “If you look at the other scenarios, let’s say we all start as planned. Thirty-eight schools during the summer period in the metro area had COVID issues. That was just in the summer. There is no guarantee, and there is probably a much more likelihood, that once you started a season the worst-case scenario is you find out the team you’re supposed to play had an outbreak. There is no guarantee that once you start the season you were going to finish it.
“I think the task force and the board of directors weighed all of that. Bus trips and this and that, and said a season is better than no season. I’m not so sure this wasn’t the worst choice. We’re all anxious now because we’re ready to play.”
Mike Domin, who is a member of the Crosby-Ironton School Board, but is also a member of the MSHSL’s board of directors sat through 17 hours of meetings on Monday, Aug. 3, which was a workshop and Tuesday, Aug. 4, which was the board of directors meeting.
“The task force gave us recommendations and they gave us a bunch of different models, but ultimately it came down to each individual sport,” Domin said. “A lot of it came down from the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Health. Some activities are high risk and their thinking was how do you offer high-risk sports. A lot of us looked at as education is first and foremost. We wanted to make sure we go with our education models first and not have our activities affect those education models.”
Domin referred to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s last executive order concerning no visitors can enter schools. No use of locker rooms and more as to why volleyball was moved. Football being a contact sport was the main reason it was moved to the spring.
Football and volleyball teams will be allowed to practice in the spring along with those sports that saw their spring season canceled last spring.
So why practice and not just go with a regular season?
“In terms of the practice, practice is a lot different than putting kids on to a bus and traveling to wherever you need to travel,” Stolski said. “Then you go into a strange locker room and all those kinds of things.
“If you’re allowed to practice with your kids at least you can control the environment. It’s important too, for coaches to stay in contact with their kids. Even if it’s just practice, it is giving them visual types of support. I can see the logic in it.”
Domin said one misconception he is hearing is why doesn’t the MSHSL league just start football and after four weeks it’s called off because of an outbreak then move it to the spring. Domin was adamant that that wasn’t an option.
“I was down there in person, but I don’t think anybody left that meeting jumping up and down with joy,” Domin said. “I can read social media and all that’s going on out there, but these are real decisions that have to be made. You can’t push it down the road for two weeks. All of our schools have to make decisions on how they are going to move forward. It was tough.”
Domin called Tuesday’s votes the biggest decision he’s ever had to make in his 21 years of being involved in schools.
“This probably wasn’t the best decision, but it was the right decision,” he said.
So what would have been the best decision?
“The best decision would be to get the kids out and get them going, but the right decision was to error on the side of safety and make sure you can have a season.”
So the football and volleyball seasons will start sometime in the middle of March when every activity director knows predicting the weather is like herding cats.
But Stolski was even optimistic about that.
“If there is ever a contest to be played in bad weather, football is used to it,” Stolski said.
Another positive said Stolski was the ability for football and volleyball players to now go enjoy the fall hunting season.
“As football coaches, and I’ve been busy listening to coaches across the state, but as football coaches, we learn to adapt. It might be bittersweet for the kids, but the best thing is we’ll have a football season and a volleyball season for those athletes.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.