Sports adjust practice, play for COVID-19 restrictions


John Hick

Audrey Senaratna steps forward, acknowledging herself to her opponent during line ups, a time when tennis players would usually introduce themselves by shaking their opponent’s hand.

Hybrid learning began Sept. 29, and while numerous changes were made by both the Athletic Department and Minnesota State High School League before sports started on Aug. 17, even more policies have been put in place to ensure the athletes’ safety and the community alike.

While there are no significant changes from attending practices and games as an off-campus student or after a distance learning day, there is a new detailed policy on-campus students must follow.

The most significant change from previous years is that no athletes can leave the building prior to attending practices or games. All athletes must go to a specific location designated by which team they are on until dismissed to change in the locker room. Once the athlete leaves the building, they are not allowed to reenter. If there is bad weather, athletes can leave their bags in Huss and reenter the school to receive them.

I think that the policies that the school and the league have put in place make me feel a lot safer coming to school and participating in sports. ”

— 9th grader Audrey Senaratna

The MSHSL cut each season by 20%, meaning an eleven-week season quickly turns into an eight or nine-week season. The league also cut the competition by 30% and limited matches to two a week. Many schools chose to automatically shorten their season to fit the restrictions by only playing conference teams, which left other schools with only five games, and a short period of time to find six more teams to compete against.

Athletic Director Ken McNish said, “As a former high school athlete, college athlete, you feel invincible at times, because you’re just going, right? You’re in great shape, you’re feeling strong, you’re winning games, you don’t think that you can be touched. But this is something that, for better or worse, is very dangerous, right? And I have to take that into consideration. And I have to find a balance between being safe and respectful of what this disease is, what this pandemic actually presents, and then also not being paralyzed and restricted by fear.”

While the protocols were unusual and inconvenient for student-athletes, the systems put in place also included required masking, empty or limited stands for competitions, team quarantines after exposures, and no student journalist access to tournaments, if played.