High school spring sports practice and games will be suspended at least until May 4, extending the current shutdown to remain in step with the closing of Minnesota schools.
The announcement Wednesday by the Minnesota State High School League came moments after Gov. Tim Walz’s 2 p.m. briefing, during which he ordered state residents to stay at home and limit movements outside their homes beyond essential needs for two weeks beginning Saturday. School buildings will be closed throughout April while districts deploy distance learning to May 4, all in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The league said no decisions have been made “at this time’’ about canceling spring sports for the season.
“Pending a reopening of schools by the Governor, return to participation protocols will be determined and communicated by the MSHSL Board and MSHSL staff,’’ the league said in a statement sent to its member schools.
If practice resumed May 4, it would leave anywhere from one to three weeks for competition until section play was scheduled to begin. Most sports generally offer a week or two of practice before games begin. The earliest-starting spring sport is boys’ tennis, which has postseason play set to begin the week of May 11.
Baseball and lacrosse have the latest state tournaments, both concluding on June 13. If schools reopen on Monday, May 4, that’s a six-week window for practice, the regular season, sections and state tournament.
“I hate to even speculate about it,” said Craig Anderson, Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association executive director. “It could take a week or two just to get the athletes in shape and ready to play.”
Anderson, a former Pine Island coach for 40 years who also has served on the high school league’s board, sent a note to the baseball coaches association executive board and advisory committee after Walz’s announcement Wednesday afternoon. At present, the first baseball playoff game is scheduled for May 18 in Class 4A, Section 1.
“There is definitely a lot of decisions that are going to have to be made,” Anderson said. “If we are given an opportunity to play, it’s going to be interesting to see what we can put together. We will be working with the MSHSL staff, and I’m sure they’ll be seeking input from us.”
Anderson knows his sport isn’t alone in this matter.
“There is going to have to be coordination between all the spring activities at once,” Anderson said. “I hope we all get a chance to make it happen.”
Maple Grove softball coach Jim Koltes is cheerfully confident about a shortened spring season. His Crimson are the Class 4A defending state champions.
“I feel more optimistic now than I did at 1:59 p.m.,” Koltes said Wednesday. “It appears there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
A few years back, Koltes’ squad didn’t play its first game until May 2. The Crimson wound up playing 17 regular season games.
“There are plenty of things you can look at to get games in,” Koltes said. “You have to be creative.”
Northfield coach Ryan Pietsch’s squad, whose team is the Class 3A defending state champions, said, “There are a lot of emotions right now. This is uncharted waters. I’m hopeful we can get through this pandemic and have a modified season. I’m cautiously optimistic.”
How long would it take for him to have his Raiders’ prepared for game action?
“The kids would be so ecstatic to get back out there I don’t think it would take long at all,” Pietsch said. “I think we would be ready to play by the end of the week.”
Jon Junker, president of the state lacrosse boys’ coaches association, “We’re like every other spring sport, and holding on to any glimmer of hope we may have.”
Junker, who is Chanhassen boys’ lacrosse coach, said he has been in contact with his players from afar during the dilemma.
“I think the kids are in pretty good condition,” he said. “They are actually dealing with this situation better than I expected.”
On Monday The Blake School said it had shut down its spring sports programs until May 1. The league had previously halted practice through this Friday, in concert with the governor ordering the closing Minnesota schools, and delayed games until April 6 at the earliest because of the coronavirus pandemic.