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Area high schools forced to deal with not having fans

NEW ULM — This fall, high school volleyball in Minnesota — because of being played inside — will have their matches in front of essential workers, teammates and coaches only.

No fans.

Boys’ and girls’ high school basketball and wrestling may also face similar quiet gyms this winter because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Currently the rules from the Minnesota Department of Education say that no non-essential visitors are allowed in schools,” said Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Director Erich Martens Tuesday. “And that interpretation includes spectators for high school league events. So until those restrictions or interpretations change our schools are held to that — fans are not going to be allowed at games. That is just part of what we are going through.”

And not allowing fans to attend games would really hurt schools financially with no income from ticket sales and concessions.

“It is a significant financial burden for all of our schools,” Martens said. “Football will have a fan limit of 250 per game and the size of the crowd makes a huge difference in what the gate is and that makes a difference in the athletic budgets.”

This possibility of lost revenue follows the MSHSL’s COVID-19 installment’ fees assessed to each school.

THREE-FOURTHS WANTED FALL FOOTBALL AND VOLLEYBALL: Martens said that between 75 and 80% of the schools who responded to the MSHSL poll wanted fall football and volleyball rather than late next spring.

“They wanted the fall sports,” Martens said. “That percentage was an important factor in the board’s decision — we got responses from nearly 400 schools.”

Martens said that as far as football restrictions go, it is hard to do a great deal of change within the game itself.

“But you will see masks for coaches officials and students on the sideline,” he said. “A lot has to do with practice in maintaining smaller groups for practice purposes and really being able to isolate if cases [of COVID] might occur and how much if any contact an individual has had because obviously if everybody is practicing together all of the time and someone has a positive case, then that means that the whole team might be sat down.

“But if it is a small group of individuals that were in close contact, they may not to have to shut down the entire team. They need to avoid large groups at all times, using social distancing in and around practice and game preparations. They also need to put in health screenings on a daily basis for our kids and make sure they are only practicing and participating when they feel 100% and have not had close contact with positive cases.”

Martens said that cloth masks will not be required for players on the field but will be required if they are off of the field.

Martens said that no schools have indicated that they will not play football this fall.

BUBOLTZ READYING FOR FOOTBALL: Minnesota Valley Lutheran football coach Jim Buboltz said that playing fall football now “is later than we thought but something right now is better than nothing. So I am pretty excited for our guys.”

Buboltz felt that the original plan in August for high schools to play football next spring in March and April would have been tough on several fronts.

“For the sake of the kids and the fields in general and for the sake of the spring sports — it would have been so difficult — so this is the right decision for the time that we have. I am especially very happy for our seniors.”

Buboltz said that they are very careful in practice.

“We separate ourselves every 10-12 minutes so that we do not fall into that 6-foot for 15 minutes type of barrier. We are trying to do everything that we can do when we are together.”

Buboltz said that some of his players are wearing cloth masks in practice.

“They feel pretty good about having them,” he said.

And moving football back to the fall was good news for Buboltz who also coaches the MVL baseball team. Baseball would have followed football late this spring.

“I would have had to go from football to high school baseball to our history tour and then legion baseball or umpiring.”

And high school football practice for the next season would have started right after the late spring, early summer high school baseball season.

“We would have had off only two months from baseball to football so I would have had only two weeks off for myself.”

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