By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Whether it’s a high school football field or volleyball court, simply getting two teams on them to play each other has been a challenge in recent weeks for many schools.

Bill Tschida is the athletic director for Farmington High School.

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“Our section has 14 volleyball teams in it that would normally play in section playoffs. We’re down to five schools right now because of districts already making decisions to pause their falls sports, delay winter sports starting,” Tschida said. “You’re just waiting for the next phone call to come and the school’s going to be telling you they can’t compete.”

Totino-Grace High School athletic director Mike Smith says their football team was supposed to play Tuesday night, but its opponent, Hopkins High School, had to pull out due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the team. That allowed the Eagles to advance in a post-season tournament likely to be cut short.

“You want to have some gratitude for getting this far, you know, when you thought originally your season was going to be in March [of 2021], and then you heard the word, like we’re gonna start next week, you know, so hurry up and get ready,” Smith said.

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Sports have become one of the top sources of COVID outbreaks in Minnesota, along with weddings and social gatherings, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health. Sports are linked to the second-highest number of cases at 780. Weddings are connected to 933 cases, while gyms are at 747 cases.

The record spikes in cases and hospitalizations is why Gov. Tim Walz will announce new restrictions Wednesday, which will impact youth sports, restaurants and bars, gyms and fitness centers, and social gatherings.

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Ice rinks across the Twin Cities are also anticipating a big change. The Roseville Ice Arena serves hundreds of youth hockey players, speed skating teams, figure skaters and more. Superintendent Kevin Elm wonders if the new restrictions will focus on those sporting leagues, or on the facilities that host them.

“It will help us once we find out more what the guidance will be and how we can look at it and determine how we move forward best and safest,” Elm said.

Understanding what to do next is the challenge for athletic directors who have already scheduled out winter sports leagues.

“If you pause [winter sports], then do you have to reset your schedules? Do you have to reassign officials? Do you have to redo your bussing?” Tschida said.

He wonders if putting winter sports on would lead to a domino effect, pushing back post-season schedules that might then affect spring sports.

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Gov. Walz will announce the new restrictions Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Jeff Wagner