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MSHSL moves football and volleyball seasons to spring

The Minnesota State High School League held a board meeting Tuesday morning and voted on a sport-by-sport basis, to move the football and volleyball seasons to the spring, while keeping the cross country, boys’ and girls’ soccer, girls’ tennis and girls’ swimming and diving seasons in the fall.

In an effort to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to keep students safe, the board decided the football and volleyball seasons will be played in a season between the winter and spring sports seasons, which would move the traditional spring sports into the summer season.

The football and volleyball seasons will run from roughly mid-March to mid-May. Both seasons would be reduced in the number of weeks and games than they normally would be in the fall, with football taking on a six-game schedule.

The exact dates for the new seasons were not released by the MSHSL, but Albert Lea Activities Director Paul Durbahn said he doesn’t see there being any more overlap between the seasons than they would normally see.

“There will potentially be overlap, yes,” Durbahn said. “I don’t foresee it being any more than what we traditionally see, but what that will be is still to be determined… The board noted that the overlap wouldn’t be any different than what we typically see with seasons starting during a championship tournament series.”

While the vote to move the football season to the spring was nearly unanimous, the vote surrounding volleyball was more split.

The first motion was to move volleyball to the spring season, which ended in a tie, striking down the motion. The vote to allow the volleyball season to remain in the fall failed, which led to more discussion, before ultimately passing the vote to move into the winter/spring season.

As for the sports that are sticking with their original fall starting dates, they will also have to follow new  guidelines and procedures.

In cross country, meets will be limited to three teams and allowed to have only one to two meets per week.

Both girls’ tennis and girls’ swimming and diving will be limited to two teams at each competition and will also only be allowed to participate one to two times each week.

Boys’ and girls’ soccer will see a 20% reduction in the number of weeks in the regular season, a 30% reduction in the number of competitions and will not be allowed to participate in scrimmages.

Decisions on postseason play for all events in the fall have yet to be determined.

Durbahn said all competitions are likely to be restricted to local or conference opponents only and the Big Nine Conference activities directors have already started working on plans.

Albert Lea head boys’ soccer coach Zac Luther said he was happy to see  soccer was going to be allowed to play, but he said the safety of the players is still his highest priority.

“I’m very pleased with the announcement made,” Luther said. “There are still many unknowns specifically with scheduling, but overall I’m excited that the athletes get the chance to compete. Player safety is the top priority moving forward, and I expect much more guidance to be given in the coming weeks.”

Registration for the fall sports cleared to begin are open to students as of Wednesday. Activities are open to all students whether they are in hybrid or in-person learning models. The parent-athlete coaches meetings will take place via video format.

Durbahn said the cooperation from the community and families’ ability to adapt to new expectations  in the spring and summer has been phenomenal. He said it’s important to remember that the school’s activities are education based and the decisions made by both the MSHSL and the school district will revolve around how the school day looks.

“We’ll continue to adapt and do our best,” Durbahn said. “Our coaches have been phenomenal. I can’t speak highly enough to how strong our coaches have been through all these changes and challenges. We need to continue to be safe, and that’s what our focus will be as we move into the fall.”

The fall sports schedule is slated to begin Aug. 17 with the first organized practices.

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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