A question of planning

Published 7:01 am Saturday, August 8, 2020

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Now that a decision has been made to proceed with prep sports, FB coaches now have to figure out the next steps


There were a few moments of normalcy on the final day of team camp for the Austin football team at Art Hass Stadium Thursday afternoon, but the day ended with a level of uncertainty for everyone involved.

Austin head coach Ed Schmitt and the Packers know that the season is supposed to start in March, but they end the summer workout without having an open weight room or a set practice schedule.

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“They’ve been upbeat, but they want to know what the schedule looks like and how many times we’ll be able to get together during the fall,” Schmitt said. “They don’t even know what school is going to look like yet. There are a lot of unknowns right now and it’s not a good time to be a teenage kid.”

On the field, Mason O’Connor will do anything he’s asked of as the senior plays running back, defensive tackle and offensive guard for the Packers. Off the field, he’s been trying to get more kids to play football, as Austin’s camp numbers were down drastically from years past due to COVID-19 worries.

Friday nights will have a different feel for O’Connor and the Packers this fall.

“You’re just waiting and waiting until you get news and when you do get it, you don’t really know what to do with it,” O’Connor said. “Everything’s locked down and you don’t know what to do. We had a practice, we had a camp and then our season gets moved to spring. It’s hard and it’s weird to not have it in the fall, but honestly it’s better to know we’ll have the season. We’ve got six months to get ready.”

While some Austin football players may give soccer or cross country a try this fall, others are looking to stay busy in bulking up. Junior Joseph Walker has been trying to do whatever he can to get stronger ever since he was sent home from school in March.

“You control what you can control,” Walker said. “I’ve been trying to recruit guys to come out and play and I’ve been lifting.”

For schools that are smaller than Austin that don’t have field turf to practice on, the battle will be just finding a space to practice and possibly play in the spring, if winter weather tends to hang around until April or beyond.

Grand Meadow head coach and athletic director Gary Sloan, who has led the Larks to four state championships and a state berth last year, said he’s just trying to figure out how he’s going to do indoor practices with his team while volleyball teams, and possibly basketball teams, will also be occupying gym space before the season.

Sloan has also had to preach patience to his team, which was looking forward to a competitive season with most of its roster back from last year.

“They’re not happy. We’ve got a senior dominated team and I feel we could be pretty competitive and they were hoping to play,” Sloan said. “We had more practices this summer than we typically do and they were ready, but there isn’t anything we can do about it.”

Blooming Prairie head coach Chad Gimbel led the Awesome Blossoms to their first ever state football title last season, but he is also pumping the breaks now as he is gathering all of the information he can to see what kind of an offseason program he can run.

Gimbel wasn’t surprised by the announcement that the football season was moved to March and he’s appreciative of the leadership shown by the Minnesota State High School League.

“I want to give credit to the MSHSL,” Gimbel said. “I know they had a tough decision to make and it didn’t make everyone happy, but they came up with a plan that allows every kid a chance to play their favorite sport this year.”