Athletics: Area ADs and coaches have a mixed response to MSHSL announcements
The return of high school sports this upcoming school year will look different for 2020-21.
The Minnesota State High School League announced Tuesday, Aug. 4, that fall sports like boys and girls cross-country, boys and girls soccer, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving will go as scheduled while football and volleyball will be moved to spring.
For cross-country there will be a limit of three teams at a meet, and for tennis and swimming only head-to-head matches will be allowed.
Additionally, the MSHSL moved the traditional spring season to a summer season starting in mid-May and ending in early July. Football and volleyball will start in mid-March and end in mid-May.
For Pierz, this means the defense of their Class 3A state football championship won’t start until March of 2021.
“We are disappointed we don’t get a chance to have football in fall because it was always special,” Pierz football head coach Dan Saehr said. “We are staying optimistic because the season isn’t canceled and we look at it as just being pushed off. We are going to get something in the spring no matter what. It gives our seniors one last chance to play high school football.”
Saehr mentioned how life has been abnormal since March anyway, so adding spring football to that list of abnormalities will just be another adjustment.
“It’s definitely going to be something different,” Saehr said. “It’s something the kids will never forget. You’ve got to make the most of it. You can only control so much and we are just happy there is going to be a season.”
Pierz activities director Dave Rocheleau wasn’t a big fan of moving volleyball and football to the spring, but understands that the move is better than a cancellation.
“I thought they were going to delay and give the fall sports a chance to start since we have been practicing,” Rocheleau said. “There is still a little bit of excitement around the fact that they will play in the spring where they could’ve just said no football like they canceled our spring sports this year.”
Rocheleau's biggest concern is going from spring volleyball and football right to spring sports in the summer. Rocheleau mentioned that a lot of the coaches usually have the winter off in between the fall and spring sports will now be going nonstop.
Pierz also had a senior trip planned in March that they will have to work around with football and volleyball being scheduled to start in mid-March.
“Things like that they just don’t think about,” Rocheleau said. “I am sure they did, but there are going to be conflicts all over the place.”
Bryon Westrich is the new activities director at Pequot Lakes and is excited for girls tennis and cross-country athletes that will get to have their season on time.
“I appreciate the high school league for all their efforts,” Westrich said. “I know it’s not an easy decision and I think they did things well. I’m happy to see at least cross-country and tennis can go this fall and I think we can make those adjustments as activities directors.”
Westrich worries about moving spring sports to summer. He mentioned many student-athletes have summer jobs, and thinks there could be a challenge to field full rosters come the summer of 2021.
“Some students who have graduated may say, ‘You know what, I’m not going to be in softball or baseball or track if it is going to go a little longer.’ It certainly will make things a little challenging for us activities directors,” Westrich said. “And of course we will just have to throw out our schedule and try to get a new one as quick as we can.”
Overall, Westrich is happy football got moved to the spring. He didn’t think fall football was a possibility.
“I don’t know how we would have done football safely in the fall,” Westrich said. “Moving it to the spring will be so much better. Hopefully we can have fans, when I envisioned football and volleyball in the fall I didn’t see us having fans. And those are events our students love to be a part of.”
Crosby-Ironton activities director Jared Matson stated the best chance to have a football and volleyball season is moving it to the spring.
Matson is also hopeful to see more athletes try out for cross-country and girls tennis this fall.
“Hopefully, they can have a good experience even though it may not be their first sport,” Matson said. “They will still have that chance to participate in something and not nothing.”
On moving spring sports to the summer, Matson is excited about not having cold weather baseball and softball games.
“Obviously, we won’t be worried about playing 30-degree baseball games in April,” Matson said. “It should be nice. The fields should be in good shape and we should be able to crank out a ton of games.”
New Pillager activities director Matt Meon said his head is still spinning after Tuesday’s announcement. The only fall sports that will be in session for Pillager will be cross-country.
“I’m a little bit surprised and wasn’t expecting that result today,” Moen said of football and volleyball being moved to the spring. “I thought they would move it back. I’m glad the seasons aren’t canceled. I wish they would’ve started football and volleyball off on Aug. 17 and maybe shortened the season or started two weeks later. Not moving into the spring.”
Overall, there is a mixed feeling of satisfaction about the MSHSL’s decisions.
“It’s a no-win situation,” Rocheleau said. “I’m mixed. I really think we could’ve started and seen what happened. If something happens then pull the plug on it. Now we will never know.”
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.