The rapidly-evolving situation around the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought the sports world at every level to a near halt and also brought with it a lot of questions as it pertains to the future and when we might see any activities again.
That feeling of unknown is where a lot of spring coaches of activities for Minnesota State High School League member schools find themselves heading into this week. On Sunday morning, March 15, the MSHSL issued an updated response to its spring activities that included no practices for teams from March 18 through March 27. The league had announced on March 13 that there would be no scrimmages, contests and competitions with other MSHSL programs for spring activities and athletics until April 6.
At that point, teams were allowed to practice leading up to that April 6 date, but that changed on Sunday when Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced that all K-12 schools in the state would be closed from at least March 18 through March 27.
“It’s a lot of unknown,” Osakis activities director Pat Kalpin said when reached by phone on March 16. “We know what we have to do for these next eight days to prepare for distance learning, but as far as anything else beyond that, it’s all new to everybody. Everyone has to work together to come up with a good game plan for each grade, each discipline, and each class. It’s very unknown, and it’s going to be a lot of questions, not only from our standpoint, but from parents’ and students’ standpoint.”
Osakis Public School was in session on Monday, March 16, so teachers and staff could explain to students how to move forward with distance learning. Osakis Schools are closed from March 17-27, and the Silverstreaks’ spring coaches got to meet with their teams on Monday to communicate with them a plan as best as they could at that time.
“We’re allowing the coaches to meet with their teams (Monday) after school and talk to them,” Kalpin said. “To let them know that we’re going to try to keep them informed, but at this point, we’re done (with practice). I think it’s important they got to meet with their teams.”
Last Friday’s original ruling from the MSHSL as it pertains to spring sports was met with relief by many coaches. Actual games and competitions would not be allowed until April 6, but at least kids could continue to practice and prepare for the season.
Sunday’s announcement that practices would no longer be allowed while school is not in session was another example of how quickly things are evolving due to COVID-19 and the attempt to limit its spread. As of Monday morning, the spring activities season through the MSHSL is set to resume competition in early April, but coaches know that too could change. On March 15, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that organizers cancel or postpone any gatherings with 50 or more people for the next eight weeks.
“I think so, especially after this recent ruling,” Kalpin said when asked if Osakis coaches are worried about the spring sports season being canceled completely. “I talked to the coaches on Friday when we got the message from the state high school league at 3:15 that afternoon...When we got the message that they could practice, coaches were kind of relieved. It was, ‘Oh good, at least we can do that, move forward and keep the kids involved.’ But now with this new ruling (on Sunday), we’re cutting it off now.”
Kalpin, who is a longtime coach himself in multiple sports and the current Osakis girls basketball coach, said he knows it’s a difficult time for kids who want to take part in their spring activities. He has seen firsthand how much many of those kids put into their activities.
“I’m sure the students are looking forward to their seasons, they’re just devastated,” he said. “The coaches feel the same way. They’re in this for them, and hopefully they get some kind of season in, but at this point you can’t tell them yes or no because you don’t know.”
Coaches will continue to hold out hope until told the season is off. Kalpin said the potential to resume activities might be there in a modified format that includes such things as no fans allowed at games or competitions.
“I hope at least they can do that. Get these activities in for the students at some point,” Kalpin said. “If it means without fans and that’s what we feel is best for the students, and they get the activity in, then do it. That’s what it’s about. I know the parents and fans love to watch, but ultimately it’s about the students and the athlete being able to participate.”