MSHSL allows individual fall sports

Cross-country, girls' tennis, girls' swimming and diving to begin; football and volleyball delayed until spring

Area football fields will remain unused for a while longer, as the Minnesota State High School League voted to move the sport to a condensed season in the early spring, along with volleyball. Echo Journal File Photo

High school sports are returning in some capacity.

The Minnesota State High School League voted Tuesday, Aug. 4, to allow individual sports - cross-country, girls’ tennis and girls’ swimming and diving - to begin as scheduled, with some stipulations.

For the three sports, the number of weeks for the season is reduced by 20%, and the number of competitions is reduced by 30%. No scrimmages, invitationals or tournaments are allowed. Tennis can have no more than two teams at a given competition and cross-country is allowed no more than three.

Competitions must be held against “local” opponents. In most cases, that limits the competition to teams within a school’s district or sub-district. Teams in all sports are limited to one to two games or meets per week.

Culminating events such as section and state tournaments for all sports are still to be determined.


Football and volleyball are now planned to begin in what the board calls a “fourth season” between winter sports and regular spring sports. The two sports would see their season shortened so they could end in early to mid-May, allowing spring sports to start after that.

Football and volleyball will be allowed to hold practices this fall, as will the spring sports that lost a season this year.

The only team sport allowed to begin in the coming weeks is soccer, as board members felt the fact that it is played outdoors and physical contact is limited may be enough to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Should a school district be required to enter a distance learning model, all sports seasons would pause and all coaching must be done in a virtual setting.

“I think the high school league did everything well,” Pequot Lakes activities director Byron Westrich said. “They had a committee and they involved medical personnel. I trust their judgement and I guess we will just have to follow it ... I’m glad we aren’t cutting any seasons - we already lost last spring - and I hope that doesn’t happen to tennis and cross-country.”

Westrich said the league’s disapproval of invitationals and tournaments may lead to some “creative scheduling” processes for schools, and he expressed concern about whether middle-level sports would be offered - something not mentioned in the MSHSL meeting - and how transportation would be handled.

Pine River-Backus Superintendent Jon Clark said he was “somewhat discouraged” by the board of directors’ decision.

“I want our kids to be fully active in all of our sports,” he said. “The decision they made could be very detrimental to smaller schools that have difficult times fielding teams. I know they are trying not to overlap sports as much as possible, but with football in March in Minnesota, I think it could be tough having our fields ready to go.”


Clark also feared difficulties fielding teams for the traditional spring sports immediately after - or perhaps during - the football and volleyball seasons. He also worried that minimal breaks between seasons would put a strain on coaches, many of whom coach multiple sports.

“I think this could be harmful to some smaller districts in terms of participation … We want the kids to have some sense of normalcy, and I’m just not sure this decision gives it.”

Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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