Sadness, disappointment felt locally as cancellation of MSHSL spring activities becomes official
Coaches and athletes knew for weeks that the cancellation of spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a possibility, but that did not make the sadness any less real for many when that news became official on Thursday.
A decision that coaches and athletes hoped could be avoided became official on April 23 when the Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors declared that, effective immediately, all activities and athletics during the spring 2019-20 season are canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cancellation of spring activities comes in response to an executive order issued by Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday that said schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year. The decision of the MSHSL is aligned with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Minnesota Department of Health and is in support of practices that focus on community health and safety.
“I’m sad, disappointed. Sad for our seniors and for our coaches who put in a lot of time,” Alexandria activities director Ben Kvidt said. “It’s one of those things where you know it’s coming, but there was always hope. Now with the announcement and it being finalized, that’s when some grief really hits you. We understand and support the reasoning behind it. We’re willing to do our part to do what we can.”
The cancellation applies to all forms of student participation in league activities, athletics and fine arts.
“As a parent of a high school senior, I understand the tremendous impact of this pandemic,” MSHSL Board President Bonnie Spohn Schmaltz of Eden Valley-Watkins said in a release. “As a speech coach, team members that I have coached since seventh grade won’t see their final season culminating with the opportunity at the state tournament, including my daughter. Knowing these costs, I’m proud of the sacrifices competitors and coaches throughout the state are making to keep others safe.”
The MSHSL will hold its regular board meeting on Friday, April 24 via digital communication to further discuss ways to work with member schools as they complete the academic year and look toward next year.
Area coaches and athletes knew this was a possible outcome for more than a month since all spring activities were suspended on March 15, but that did not make Thursday’s announcement any easier for many of them.
“The thing that’s sad about it is I think we’ve all been holding out hope,” Osakis Activities Director Pat Kalpin said. “We’ve been hearing that the state high school league has a plan in place for mid-May through June. We had a meeting this morning, so we saw it coming then, but to have it be official, it hurts. You hurt for the kids.”
Coaches, teachers and advisors have frequently been staying in contact with students and athletes as much as possible through virtual means. Voluntary workouts have been sent out by coaches if athletes wanted to participate, and team interactions through video have been ways to see each other.
“In talking with our spring coaches who have had contact with them, I think they were planning ahead and planning on having a season,” Kalpin said of Osakis student-athletes. “I think that’s what everyone was holding on to, so I’m guessing they’re going to be very disappointed. We don’t know what lies ahead in the fall, the winter. We don’t know when this is going to end.”
Kalpin said the unknowns surrounding the pandemic is one of the toughest parts to take for people who want to be there for students. Staying connected virtually has been helpful, but it has not replaced the daily interaction of working with kids that so many coaches and teachers get into the profession for.
“It sure would be nice to be able to get everyone together and talk and be there for them,” Kalpin said. “There’s going to be frustration, kids mad and sad. You can be there long distance, but you can’t be right there for them. That’s the thing you think about the most as a coach, as an AD and a teacher.”
The MSHSL strongly encourages everyone to adhere to the aspects of the stay-at-home order and participate fully in recommended safety practices such as social distancing, hand washing and limiting unnecessary contact with others.
Minnesota State High School League Director Erich Martens said in the release that the MSHSL will soon turn to the summer and planning for a return to participation this fall.
“At this time, everything we can do to slow the spread and impacts of COVID-19 will help ensure the health of all, and will most certainly increase the chances that programming for students can return,” Martens said.
Kvidt is confident that the students in the 2020 graduating class will show their character through an end of their high school careers that they never anticipated.
“I think the biggest things are yet to be seen,” Kvidt said. “It’s being resilient and bouncing back through this. Not letting this ruin a great high school career. They’ll bounce back. We’re going to get through this spring, and I’m excited to see where our seniors go and what they do because it’s going to be amazing things.”