Youth and high school sports are shutting down again across the state for the second time in eight months.
Gov. Tim Walz ordered a four-week shutdown Nov. 18 of youth amateur sports across the state due to the rising spread of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The shutdown is from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18.
The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors is scheduled to meet Dec. 3. At that time, more of a timeline will be laid out on how winter sports will be structured.
Dance team practices began back on Nov. 9. Boys hockey and boys basketball were scheduled to start with practices Nov. 23, followed by Nordic and Alpine skiing, girls hockey, boys swimming and wrestling Nov. 30 and gymnastics and girls basketball Dec. 7.
All those sports will be in a holding pattern now until Dec. 18.
“It’s not easy and it’s not fair but it’s a sacrifice we need to make,’’ Walz said in his press conference.
Meanwhile, the high school football playoffs were supposed to end Nov. 28, but now all games have to be finished by Nov. 20.
Prior Lake and Shakopee were scheduled to play second-round Class 6A playoff games Nov. 21 against Eden Prairie and Champlin Park, respectively. Those two games, along with many other playoff contests from all six classes around the state, were moved up one day to get them in before the ordered shutdown.
Prior Lake won its first playoff game Nov. 17 beating Roseville at home 44-0. Shakopee rolled past Eagan at home 55-7.
The volleyball season was supposed to end Dec. 12 with section title matches across the state. That sport won’t even get to a postseason.
“The point we’re at in this pandemic, if we don’t get a handle on this, it’s not going to be a choice whether we keep it open,” Walz said. “There’s going to be no coaches to coach and we’re going to have more kids in the hospital. It is inevitable with this growth.”
There have been COVID-19 cases reported for youth and high school sports since June when sports were allowed to resume after the first shutdown that lasted nearly four months (March 15 to June 3). The MSHSL was forced to cancel all sport sports back in April.
According to the Minnesota Health Department, COVID-19 data shows 6,375 cases have been connected to sports since June. That includes 985 new ones since Nov. 15.
There has been resistance to Walz’s sports pause. On change.org, there’s a “Let them Play Sports in Minnesota” petition with an original goal of 10,000 signatures. It surpassed that mark in less than day.
Minnesota Youth Athletic Services, the largest multi-sport organization in the state, with more than 150,000 kids participating in its programs annually, has stretched its shutdown for boys and girls basketball until Jan. 9.
“We are facing a brutal second wave of this virus, and so many Minnesota Youth Basketball Alliance leaders are struggling with difficult decisions within their own associations as we navigate through these uncertain times,” said MYAS Executive Director Dawson Blanck.
“As a youth basketball community, we must commit to safety being our No. 1 priority inside each basketball association before, during, and after practices and tournaments in order for youth sports to resume.”