Minnesota sports delay start of season to Dec. 19

Published 3:23 pm Friday, November 20, 2020

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Starting Saturday morning, high school and youth sports across the state of Minnesota will be put on hold until Dec. 19 in an attempt to try to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

While Albert Lea’s fall sports were already done for the year after Albert Lea Area Schools made the decision to transition to distance learning earlier in the week, the new executive order puts a halt on all  winter sports, which were set to begin practices in the coming weeks.

Teams may not participate in practices, games or tournaments until Dec. 19, when the current executive order expires.

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“We recognize the recent rise in positive cases and the impacts on communities and schools,” said Minnesota State High School League Executive Director Erich Martens. “Our schools have been addressing positive cases and close contacts, adjusting learning models and making difficult decisions regarding programs.

“We all know how important these programs are to students and to their mental and physical health and we all want students to participate. We believe League programs offered by our member schools provide the safest and most effective experiences and yet, at this time, we are required to take a pause. We look forward to returning to in-person participation in our winter sports and fine arts activities when these restrictions are lifted.”

Jason Thompson, Albert Lea girls’ head basketball coach, said while the news was disappointing, it was something he was expecting.

Thompson said based on the district transitioning to distance learning and the increasing positive COVID-19 rates going up across the state, he understands the decision. 

Originally slated to being the season on Dec. 7, the girls’ basketball team will have its season pushed back to a start date of around Dec. 21.

“You certainly have to give the student athletes a lot of credit,” Thompson said. “They have been tried and tested throughout this process and have handled it the best they can. The mantra that I’ve always preached to my team is to ‘control what you can control,’ and that is our attitude and effort, in addition to needing to be ultra-flexible during this situation.  Both of these will certainly be put to the test throughout this pandemic.”

While Thompson said the impact on this season has yet to be entirely seen, the girls in the program have taken full advantage of the off-season opportunities they were provided.

According to Thompson, the team has its COVID preparedness plan ready to be implemented and he is excited to get the season started whenever they get the go-ahead.

Albert Lea head boys’ hockey coach Jason Fornwald echoed Thompson’s sentiment about being able to get the season started.

“This has been a challenging year for many,” Fornwald said. “I feel for all of the kids missing out on doing what they love.  Within our hockey program, we have a fantastic group of young men and I am looking forward to working with them all soon. I hope and pray that we will return after our pause and still be able to have our hockey season.”

The boys’ hockey program was originally allowed to begin practices starting Monday. However, the new executive order will delay the season until late December.

Wrestling, boys’ basketball, girls’ hockey, boys’ swim and dive, and dance, as well as fine arts activities, will also be put on pause until the new Dec. 19 start date.

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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