The Minnesota State High School League is ready, it’s set and it’s just waiting to hear the word go from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.
At Thursday’s Board of Directors meeting, the 20-person MSHSL board voted unanimously to approve a projected athletic calendar for the rest of the school year. The motion featured three different models with potential winter sports start dates of Dec. 21, Jan. 4 and Jan. 18 based on when Walz lifts Executive Order 20-99, which is set to expire the morning of Dec. 19 but can be extended at his discretion.
“We want to begin programming as as soon as able per Executive Order 20-99,” said Jill Johnson, the chair of the Return to Play committee and the activities director at Waconia High School.
Model one features the Dec. 21 date for practices to start around the state, with competitions for all sports to begin the week of Jan. 4. An issue raised by board member John Vraa during the discussion was the fact many school districts around the state have already announced plans to remain in a distance-learning model with a pause on after-school activities until at least Jan. 4, meaning those schools will not be able to start games on that date.
Local school districts that have previously announced a pause on in-person after-school activities through the end of 2020 include Faribault, St. Peter, Le Sueur-Henderson and Tri-City United.
“Ultimately it’s going to come down to local control in the school district,” board member Mike Domin added. “Even if you can come back you might not have the coaches to come back because they’re not eligible to come back because they’re in the COVID protocol.”
All three models presented to the board feature nearly full-length seasons for all spring sports, with no changes to the traditional number of contests. Spring sports practices would start the week of March 29 except for boys and girls lacrosse, which will start practice the week of April 5.
All sports would be scheduled to start competition two weeks after the first day of practice. The postseason, which again leaves room for section and state tournaments, would wrap up by June 14.
A robust spring sports season was a key talking point during the Return to Participation committee meetings through the last few weeks.
“The spring season is vital,” Johnson said. “We need to maintain the number of spring season contests for our participants. They lost a great deal last year.”
Under the first model, plans for section and and potentially state tournaments are built in for all winter sports. Most would wrap up before the end of March, with boys and girls basketball, and boys and girls hockey with the option to extend into the week of April 5.
The second model has a start date of Jan. 4 for winter sports practices, with competitions slated to begin two weeks after, except for nordic and alpine skiing. Those two sports would only practice for one week before starting competition.
The timeline for postseason play remains the same, with a chunk of the regular season being chopped off to accommodate for the late start. The spring sports calendar for the second model is identical to the first model.
The third model, which accounts for a Jan. 18 start to practice for winter sports, once again features two weeks of practice for all sports before the first contest except for alpine and nordic skiing.
The timeline for the postseason remains unchanged in the third model, with the regular season absorbing the brunt of the shortened timeframe.