Local activities directors were not surprised that Gov. Tim Walz's restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19 included “pressing pause” on adult, high school and youth sports.
“It is what I was expecting,” Pequot Lakes Activities Director Byron Westrich said. “I know the numbers are increasing, and it’s making it difficult for us to even staff school personnel. I just wish we had a little more clarity on when we will start practice and what the season will look like so we can start adjusting our schedules for the third time.”
Pine River-Backus Activities Director Tim Tungseth also said he “wasn’t shocked” by the announcement.
In his statewide address on Wednesday, Nov. 18, Walz announced statewide restrictions in response to the Minnesota Department of Health reporting that the state has seen a 153% increase in coronavirus cases over the last two weeks - the third-highest increase in the nation.
The announcement means that not only will winter sports have a delayed start of four weeks, but the football and volleyball seasons ended Friday, Nov. 20, when restrictions took effect.
“It is a passionate group of people around youth sports, and I feel like I am right in the center of that,” Walz said in his address.
“I understand it is not easy and it is not fair, but it is a sacrifice that we need to make,” Walz said in his address. “If we don’t do that and we continue to spread, we will, with absolute certainty, put our hospitals at risk and those that need the care as well as care providers."
The announced “pause” lifts on Friday, Dec. 18. Despite this announcement being expected, ADs are somewhat scrambling to figure out what comes next.
“None of us ADs know the direction we are going,” Westrich said. “We really need some insights into how that is going to look.”
“At this point, I don’t know if we are planning to start practices before Christmas break or not,” Tungseth said. “We have MSHSL (Minnesota State High School League) meetings this week, and I hope that we can get some guidance.”
Because teams would ideally have two weeks of practice before competitions begin, Tungseth does not expect games to take place until the new year.
The football and volleyball seasons abruptly culminated last week, with PR-B coming off a two-week stoppage in play to pick up wins both on the court and the field.
“Our kids and coaches were very resilient in how they dealt with things,” Tungseth said. “It was not an ideal situation by any means, but we made the best of it. I was pleased to see our programs finish strong this past week.”
Both Patriots teams fell in their final games - for the volleyball team, it was the first loss of the season - but all Patriot teams managed to put together a full season in 2020.
“We were very fortunate,” Westrich said. “COVID didn’t really affect us at all, and we were always able to maintain practices. We may have had a coach or student in quarantine, but we never had to shut any teams down … And what a year in Pequot, to have three teams go to the section title.
“It was so great to see how resilient the students were. They made good use of their time and they did well,” he said.
Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.