‘We’re ready to get after it’
Albert Lea football and volleyball prepare for new fall seasons
After postponing both football and volleyball to the spring season, a recent decision by the Minnesota State High School League has moved both seasons back to the fall, allowing high schools across the state to begin practices starting Monday.
Albert Lea High School, which switched to a distance learning model Sept. 18, will switch back to a hybrid model Monday, just in time to allow student athletes in both sports to start practices on time.
Head football coach Paul Dunn said he has felt a wide range of emotions since he heard the news of football coming back.
“Relief, excitement, a little fear, very honestly, about the unknown and with the uncertainty about the whole situation,” Dunn said. “But I’m mostly excited about the opportunity and that we’re given a chance for the kids to have a season.”
Jamie Cameron, Albert Lea’s head volleyball coach, was also slightly shocked with the MSHSL’s decision to bring the seasons back. However, Cameron said he and the team are also excited to be able to get to play.
“I was a little surprised because of how the numbers have been fluctuating with COVID and things like that,” Cameron said. “But I know the girls are excited about it, and they’re looking forward to it. Even when we were doing our fall practices, they were saying, ‘I just want to play.’”
The seasons for both teams will be a little bit shorter than normal. Both are permitted to start practice Monday and will have just under two weeks to prepare for their first games. The volleyball team’s first game will be Oct. 8, and the football team’s first game will be Oct. 10.
The volleyball team will have 14 regular-season matchups before a postseason, and football will have six regular-season games before a two-week postseason. Postseason formats for both sports have yet to be determined.
Due to guidelines still in place by the Minnesota Department of Health, no spectators will be allowed at the volleyball games as long as they are in a school gym. Cameron said not having fans and parents at the games will be one of the hardest aspects of the unique season.
“That can really motivate you to keep going and to press and just push themselves,” Cameron said. “Without that there it’s going to be frustrating. It’s also going to be frustrating for parents because they want to see their children play, they want to see their daughters play and encourage them and support them.”
In an effort to combat parents not being able to see their daughters play live, Cameron said they are going to try and record their games so parents can watch back later. The replay option would also provide a way for parents to watch the game with their children by their side, something that’s never been an option before.
Football won’t have the problem of not having fans in the stands as state guidelines allow for up to 250 people at outdoor gatherings. Dunn said his biggest challenge in getting ready for the season will be getting the players in shape in time for their first game.
Although they were allowed to meet for practices for a short time before the school went to distance learning only, the amount of time to prepare is still minimal compared to other years.
Dunn said finding that balance of working them hard enough to get in good shape, while also allowing them to rest and recover before the first game is going to be key.
With all the hard work and dedication that will be required to get the season off to a seamless start, both coaches are excited for it to get started.
“I think the kids are excited — I know I am,” Dunn said. “The coaching staff has been exceedingly flexible and has worked very hard to make this as safe an experience as we can and we’re ready to get after it.”
Cameron echoed Dunn’s statements and thanked the people behind the scenes and community members for their support of the program.
“I appreciate everyone in the community that supports the volleyball program,” Cameron said. “I know this year it will be difficult to do a fundraiser and those types of things. However they support us, we just appreciate the community and hopefully we can provide avenues and ways for them to tune in and watch the games as well.”