Minnesota high school fall sports start practices in a 'return like no other'

Monday was the “opening day” for fall high school sport practices across Minnesota including boys and girls soccer, cross country, tennis and swimming and diving.

It had been almost 160 days since high school activities were shut down on March 13. The Minnesota State High School League calls Monday a “return like no other in the Minnesota State High School League’s 105-year history.”

Each sport has specific guidelines outlined by the MSHSL on how to keep student athletes safe, separated and their health monitored both at practices and games.

“Trying to figure out all of the logistics has been, you know, it’s been interesting for sure. But I think we’ve done a really good job figuring out how to keep people apart and keep people in different pods and spaces to make this work for us,” Champlin Park High School Girls Soccer Coach, Keith Pavelka said.

On Monday he had 80 girls try out for their four soccer teams. Some things were different, like requiring masks when they weren’t on the field playing and spray painting dots on the ground to mark where students could keep their bags and still be spaced out. But, much of the game is the same.

“I didn’t know if we were ever going to have a season this year,” senior Champlin Park girls soccer player Maille Mathis said.

They say, especially for seniors, it was important that they get approval to start their season, even if there are extra rules in place.

“When we come here we gotta wear our masks we gotta spread six feet apart, when we’re getting water and stuff, just taking safe precautions and everything,” Lauren Gauthier said.

Under MSHSL rules, when student athletes are on the field, court or in the pool they do not have to wear a mask. When they get off though, even if it’s to catch their breath on the bench, they need to be wearing masks.

“We want to be able to play the whole season and be as successful as we can so if we have to have those mandates in place we’re going to do the best job we can,” Coach Pavelka said.

One mandate the high school seniors are concerned about: no celebrations. MSHSL strongly urges players to avoid high fives, hugs and other celebrations that are part of the game.

“The goal is awesome but I feel like the celebration is what you’re looking for the most, you know, running to your team hugging everyone and high fiving everyone,” senior Megan Carlson said.

Learn more about the guidelines the MSHSL has in place for fall sports here: https://www.mshsl.org/about/news/league-news/its-opening-day