Along with the hand sanitizer in duffel bags and masks worn by coaches Monday, the first day of fall practice for thousands of Minnesota high school athletes included healthy doses of gratitude for the chance — after 156 days — to play again. And hope that they can finish the season — on their own terms.

But the coronavirus pandemic demanded changes. Taps of tennis racquets replaced high-fives. On practice fields, spacing efforts to respect social distancing led to smaller groups working together.

Conspicuously, football and volleyball players weren’t even there, except for those trying out for soccer, cross-country, tennis or swimming until their sports are offered in the spring. There will be fewer games and no big meets, but plenty to be grateful for.

Check out our related stories from the opening practices at Lakeville South girls' soccer, Stillwater cross-country and Edina girls' tennis: