Athletics: Fall season a go for most sports
The wait is over, but questions still loom following the Minnesota State High School League’s decision concerning fall sports.
At its board of directors meeting Tuesday, Aug. 4, in Brooklyn Center, it was voted to keep girls tennis, girls swimming and diving, boys and girls cross-country and boys and girls soccer in the fall while moving football and volleyball into a new version of the spring season.
The decision was also made to shorten every season by 20% in order to create a fourth sports season. Meaning football and volleyball will be the only spring sports offered from mid-March to Mid-May at this time. The regular spring sports would then start in the middle of May and wouldn’t conclude until July.
“It’s a mixed reaction because there is a lot of change and things are going to feel quite a bit different, but at the same time, we have some opportunities to do some of our co-curricular programming and that’s exciting,” Brainerd activities director Charlie Campbell said after watching the meeting online.
One of the first votes concerning fall sports was to allow cross-country, tennis, and swimming and diving with scheduling restrictions. Along with a 20% shorter season, cross-country invites can only host three teams. There will not be any swimming and diving and tennis invites, but rather a dual-meet schedule only. Each of these sports can only have 1-2 events per week.
Brainerd boys and girls cross-country coach Dave Herath is just happy for any type of season.
“It will create some interesting meets because currently, we don’t go to any meets that are three teams or fewer,” Herath said. “We’re still talking to a few coaches this morning trying to figure out what a schedule might look like. It’s just been a weird feeling. (The athletes) have been training hard this summer and we’re getting together, but to have a little bit of a purpose to their training will be nice for them.”
With every new decision comes more questions and Brainerd head girls tennis coach Lisa Salo had one concerning an event she holds where two teams are playing at Forestview Middle school and two other teams are competing at Brainerd High School. After the match, two teams then rotate to the opposite site to face a different opponent. She wondered if that would be allowed.
“That’s a question mark,” Salo said. “We do start Aug. 17 and it’s a 30% reduction in the number of contests we can have. In tennis, we’re allowed 16 contests during the season so a 4.8-event reduction. So does that mean we round up to five events or is it just four? I don’t know. The focus will be on conference duals and regional teams. My assumptions would be teams geographically.”
Salo is pleased with how her girls are preparing for the season already, but said now knowing there will be a season is a plus.
“Now we can start planning,” Salo said. “I’m going to meet with my coaches on Thursday because we’re still waiting on a few more specifics and we need time to absorb this and think about it. We’ll need to process through this, but it is a little bit of weight lifted off our shoulders in that we do get something and we should be grateful for that.”
Dan Anderson, the Warriors girls swimming and diving head coach, said he’s a planner and will take one last camping trip to clear his head and then spend the week right before the season starts to figure out how to fit in a workout schedule into a condensed season.
“This feels awesome,” Anderson said. “I can’t stand everything being vague and uncertain. Just to know we’re going to have a season and we’re going to start Aug. 17, now we can start putting our plans together.”
Anderson also had numerous questions about middle school activities and whether there would be a postseason.
“To be determined,” Campbell said. “For each of the activities that were talked about, the way the executive order reads for coming back to school, we’re not to have visitors in our building. It’s to be used for the purpose of educating kids. There would be restrictions for any tournament events that would happen in high schools. You may be able to do some things in a non-school setting. Right now the conversation is to be determined. It will be a stretch for the fall.”
A few years ago, Brainerd boys and girls soccer got their wish to play under the lights of Don Adamson Field. This fall, they’ll be the only event going on under the lights.
“It’s a relief and excitement,” Brainerd head girls soccer coach Grant Gmeinder said. “There’s a lot of emotions for sure. What we’ve seen from our kids this summer is that they’ve worked as hard any summer. We’re just so excited to be doing something again. They lost all of their spring competitions so it would have been a real bummer not to have a season after watching how hard they worked.
“I think they’re relieved as well.”
Fall Friday nights will likely feature key soccer matches as activities directors work to fit in events into the condensed schedule, but to also accommodate game officials.
“We would have that flexibility,” Campbell said. “We know we’ll be making changes to the schedule and we may decide that it would be nice instead of the boys and girls soccer teams always playing on the same night that now they can support each other and we can switch a game to Friday night.
“That would also help take the pressure off some of our officials, many of whom are not going to be comfortable coming to officiate contests. That, too, is an issue for moving forward. Having the flexibility to have fewer games and more days on which to play them will alleviate that.”
New Brainerd head football coach Jason Freed had mixed reactions about football being moved to spring. He’s happy there will be a season, but is worried about how things might look.
“I’ve always been in the corner of let’s just have a season no matter what it is,” Freed said. “I’ve told the kids that no matter what football is going to look different this year and we’re just going to have to deal with it head-on. It creates some problems. I just think geographically, where we leave, and how long the winters last with snow.
“On the other end, kids will have time to work out and things like that. My biggest concern is kids who play multiple sports and trying to hopefully allow kids to do those things.”
Rick Kuehlwein believes there are more questions to be answered now. The head Brainerd volleyball coach asked what happens with Junior Olympic volleyball.
“I’m just a little bewildered at this time,” Kuehlwein said. “We just had a camp a week ago. We had 90 kids. Fifty in the morning and 40 in the afternoon.”
Campbell said one of the components for moving volleyball was the fact it is played indoors. He said the most recent executive order by the governor said visitors would not be allowed inside schools. Even for outdoor sports like soccer and tennis schools will likely have to follow crowd-size limitations, which was another reason for moving football to the spring.
“Change is always uncomfortable and we have to manage change or it will manage us,” Campbell said. “We don’t have a choice in the matter. We have to deal with what is in front of us.”
With that said, Campbell was surprised that this scenario was the one the state high school league selected.
“I didn’t feel that reducing all the seasons and adding a fourth season had any teeth,” Campbell said. “It just wasn’t one that circulated enough for me to really believe that it was being seriously considered so when it was brought up today, I was really surprised by that. My initial reaction was this is overwhelming and we’re going to need time to figure out how this is going to all fit into a calendar year. But maybe ask me in two weeks how I’m feeling about things.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.