As schools go, so will prospect of sports seasons
July 24, 2020
In a normal year, the end of July would mean high school athletes were nearing the end of their summer training and getting ready for the high school season to begin in late August. With COVID-19 still alive and well - and the governor's decision just a week away - there is still uncertainty whether or not fall sports will even happen.
Fall sports teams are gearing up and holding business as usual until told otherwise.
"At this point, you know as much as I do," said Cloquet football coach Tom Lenarz when asked if he thought there would be a fall season. "Basically, if it comes down to (distance learning), we would not have a season. If it's anything else, I am guessing we would be playing."
Unlike sports permitted to practice year-round, football is not allowed to practice in the off season, with the exception of an 11-day window in the summer. Those practices can be back-to-back, broken up, or not held at all, depending on each school and the team's preference.
"The state high school league mandates that you have at least four practices prior to attending a team camp," Lenarz said. "We will hold four practices and then the team will attend the UMD camp. The Minnesota State High School League created the four-practice rule to make sure teams are acclimatized for contact at the camp by gradually getting into it during the four practices. It helps to make sure kids are safe for full contact at the camp by gradually getting into it during the four practices."
There are a number of other local high schools that do things a bit differently than Cloquet by holding once-a-week practices all summer or by holding a couple of practices a week until they get their 11 practices in.
The Lumberjacks held evening practices at the high school practice field Monday through Thursday this week. Starting Friday, they will attend a camp.
"It was so fun to see the boys this week," Lenarz said. "You could just tell they were extra excited to be there."
The first day of high school practice for any fall sport is scheduled for Aug. 17, but everyone is waiting for the state to announce Monday which of the three options - in-person classes, distance learning or a hybrid of the two - will be used to start school in the fall.
If the announcement mandates distance learning, that would put an end to the football season and all fall sports, the coach figures.
"It is hard to think that this might be the only football we get to play this year," Lenarz said. "Right now we are just keeping our fingers crossed."