Rocky Hulne: Questions to be answered

Published 7:01 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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One thing is for sure, the year 2020 is never done giving us surprises.

Just when it looked like we had to wait until March for high school football and volleyball to begin their seasons, the Minnesota State High School League pulled a complete 180 degree turn and initiated those sports to begin practice next Monday.

While I’m glad local athletes will get the chance to compete during their usual season, the move did seem a bit rushed and there are now plenty of question marks that coaches and athletic directors all over the state will have an answer.

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First and foremost, the decision puts athletes who decided to try out cross country in a tough spot. They must now choose to either walk away from their cross country teammates and go back to their main sport, or they will have to try and find a balance between the two sports. Neither choice is easy.

There is also the question of what happens in the communities that have an outbreak. For the current fall sports, schools are forced to take two weeks away from sports if COVID-19 rates get too high. If a football team has to miss two weeks or more of a six-week regular season, there is no way those games could be made up in the timeline provided and a lot of kids could miss out on the opportunity to play.

We’ve already seen Albert Lea and Winona have to shut down their sports for a two-week window and there could be similar dilemmas as more sports are played.

The move to play in the fall instead of spring also limits the window for a normal postseason as the schedule is shorter and the conditions will be limited. A state tournament already appears highly unlikely and with it being announced that USBank Stadium won’t host high school contests this year, the games are going to be played in cold weather and rough conditions as we go from late October into November.

For schools that don’t have turf, that could mean playing on frozen ground or a ripped up field without much grass.

I hope all of these hurdles are cleared and we get a somewhat “normal” football and volleyball season, but there are quite a few things that could go wrong.

I’m not going to judge those who make the tough decisions in the middle of a pandemic and I am certainly no expert on how the virus works around sports, but I think everything would have gone much smoother if the MSHSL had a plan in place and stuck to it — whether it meant having football and volleyball in the fall or the spring.