The Minnesota State High School League’s decision to shift the football and volleyball seasons to March to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has had coaches reeling. However, with time to mull it over, some coaches are concerned and even confused by the decision, while others are simply happy their seasons were not outright canceled like the sports of this spring.

“I’m grateful the season was not canceled, and we still have the potential to have a season in March,” Patriot football coach Bill Magnuson said. “I’m still excited that we still have something to look forward to. It will have challenges with weather and field conditions, but I’m just really glad and grateful we still have a season.

“I get to coach not only my son in his senior year, but all of those seniors. In the four years I’ve been here, I have gotten to know them well and wanted that opportunity to coach," he said.

Patriot volleyball coach Chris Ganley echoed that sentiment, saying she is content with whatever gives her athletes the best opportunity to play this year.

“Whatever is best for the safety of the community and families within the school district, that needs to be kept in mind,” Ganley said. “If they (the MSHSL) feel like that is best, I am fine with it.”

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Pine River-Backus volleyball coach Josh Hirschey expressed his disappointment in the league’s decision, given that summer ball has been played with little to no issues and that no school-age children have died from the disease in Minnesota. Though coaches and officials are at a greater risk in some cases, they could opt out of participating in the upcoming season.

He said he hopes the decision was made for health reasons as opposed to political ones, but said his team will adjust accordingly regardless.

“Our program will make the necessary adjustments and hope to have a successful season in the spring,” Hirschey said. “Right now, we are scrambling a bit to figure out what the practice guidelines will be in the immediate future and to ensure that all of our coaches will be able to coach in the spring and not fall. Our team has been working their rear ends off for this fall. Now we just have to stay motivated for a few more months and hope for the best come March.”

While those two traditionally fall sports have been delayed, other sports like cross-country and tennis have been allowed to continue as planned - a decision that brings its own set of mixed emotions.

“Obviously, I am happy for the players that the MSHSL is allowing a modified tennis season,” Patriot girls’ tennis coach Monica Sergent said. “At the same time, I share the concerns that everyone has regarding the need to put health and safety first. I am hopeful that we can all work together to provide a safe yet meaningful tennis experience for the girls.”

Local cross-country coaches were pleased to hear the season could go on as planned, since the sport does little to promote the spread of the virus.

“I think, like everybody, I'm concerned for the safety of students with schools making modifications to the beginning of the school year,” PR-B cross-country coach Tim Ramler said. “I think of all the sports, cross-country is a sport that conducts its season with the least amount of risk and we will certainly take all possible precautions that are possible.”

Patriot cross-country coach Jeff Brever said he was excited his team’s season can take place as scheduled, and agreed that his sport is better set to handle a health crisis than others.

“Cross-country is a sport that can safely adjust to the restrictions set upon us during practices and competitions,” Brever said. “Having a season is providing high morale and excitement back into students.”

Coaches of delayed sports said they expect some of their athletes to take up tennis or cross-country to take up their time in the fall, potentially allowing some student-athletes to letter in four different sports in one school year.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the volleyball players go out and play tennis or cross-country this fall,” Ganley said. “I think they just love being a part of a team. I really think that is going to happen.”

Tennis and cross-country teams can begin practicing Monday, Aug. 17.

“I think the players are looking forward to some semblance of ‘normalcy,’ if that is possible,” Sergent said. “Hopefully, it will go well.”

Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.