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Youth sports set to resume January 4

NEW ULM — Governor Tim Walz announced on Wednesday that organized youth, high school and adult sports can resume in Minnesota beginning on Jan. 4.

This will allow high school teams to start practicing that day, with the earliest competitions for most sports beginning Jan. 14.

New Ulm Cathedral Athletic Director and boys’ basketball head coach Alan Woitas said that he wasn’t surprised by the extended delay.

“I think, for the most part, that we thought that December 21 date wasn’t going to happen,” Woitas said. “But we were really hoping for the Jan. 4 date that we could begin with our winter seasons, continuing with the dance season that already has had that one week of practice before the pause. I think our kids are looking forward to it as well. So overall, good news, and we have a new date where we can look forward to starting our winter sports seasons.”

Minnesota Valley Lutheran Athletic Director and boys’ basketball head coach Craig Morgan echoed Woitas’ excitement for having a date down to look forward to.

“It’s finally good to hear a date out of the governor,” Morgan said. “We’ll make some plans accordingly as far as administrating those indoor games — it gives us some time to plan. I know we would have liked — coach-wise — we would have liked to start Monday or even the following Monday, but we’ll see what the state high school league has for us in our meeting [Thursday].”

The Tomahawk Conference ADs plan to meet Thursday to talk about scheduling.

Woitas said that he’s been asked daily by athletes for updates and that some of the stress is gone after Walz’s announcement.

“I think kids are excited to get going, too,” Woitas said. “They want to be a part of our winter sports programs, they have been asking every day, ‘When do we get to start? Have you heard anything yet?’ So they were getting kind of anxious to hear what the governor had to say [Wednesday] as well, and I think some of the stress of when we might be able to play is gone now. We know a date, and we know when we get to start.”

The goal for basketball will still be to play 18 games, the maximum games the Minnesota State High School League is allowing, with 16 conference matchups taking priority. There will be two games allowed per week, with three games a week allowed the final two weeks of the season.

Morgan said that he does have a concern when it comes to playoffs.

“The problem is going to be the playoffs at the end,” Morgan said. “With single A schools having more than eight schools in a subsection, they’re going to need to take an extra couple days to get through the section tournament. We’re [MVL] in double A, we’ve got eight schools in each of our two subsections, so we could get it done in almost week, a week and a half.

“We’ll see what they give us for an end date, as far as when the section playoffs can start,” Morgan added. “My situation, with us being double A in boys’ basketball, I sure would like to have those two nonconference [games] because right now — our conference schools, — GFW’s dropped down to single A. So I don’t have a double A team in our conference anymore besides us.”

In a press release Wednesday, MSHSL Executive Director Erich Martens said that the return date aligns well with many schools’ calendars.

“While we recognize that our students, coaches and families are anxious to return to activities and athletics, the Jan. 4, 2021, date aligns well with many member schools’ calendars as they return from extended breaks,” Martens said. “This opportunity to participate in athletics and activities also comes with great responsibility. It is critical that all students, coaches, directors and officials maintain the highest standard of health and safety, both in and outside of school. Everyone must actively share the responsibility of reducing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping themselves and others safe and healthy.”

Martens also said that the league appreciates that Governor Walz and the state departments recognize how important activities and athletics are for students.

“The League appreciates the hard work of Governor Walz and state departments in recognizing the significance and importance of these activities and athletics for our students,” Martens said. “Through participation in League activities and athletics, our students have enhanced physical and mental health and well-being. And, when they participate under the leadership and mentorship of League-trained and certified coaches and directors, implementing League provided protocols and guidance, they can enjoy the safest possible experiences.”

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