The opening North Dakota high school football practices are less than a month away. Bill Lorenz is proceeding towards the season as he would in any other year.
But 2020 is like no other year as unknowns continue to surround the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re going about business as usual,’’ said Lorenz, the Grand Forks Central head football coach. “We’ve had a number of kids in the weight room since the second week of June. We’re preparing like any other summer -- making practice plans, ordering equipment, that sort of stuff.
“We haven’t had any camps or on-field stuff with the kids. It (the season) really is up in the air.’’
Schools in Minnesota and North Dakota were shut down in mid-March due to COVID-19. The end of some winter prep seasons and all of the spring sports were canceled.
Now officials locally and statewide are trying to determine what the fall school year will look like, and if there will be extracurricular activities.
“We sit in on zoom meetings every Thursday trying to stay on top of things,’’ said Jim Weinzierl, the Minnesota Section 8A secretary. “But, as far as this fall, there still is no mention of anything.
“It’s wait and see. All options are on the table.’’
Grand Forks athletic director Mark Rerick is a member of the North Dakota High School Activities Association’s board of directors. Rerick said there are many variables being considered. Some of the major ones include:
If students aren’t back in school for classes, if on-line education continues as was done at the end of the 2019-20 school year, will there be extracurriculars?
The virus has been more prevalent in some communities compared to others. Will some schools be allowed to have fall sports while other schools, located in the COVID-19 hot spots, not have extracurriculars?
Will some sports be allowed but others not due to social distancing? Or will it be an all-or-nothing situation?
Will schools just have varsity activities, or will sub-varsity teams be allowed?
If there are prep sports, will teams be allowed to play outside the state? Will schedules be limited to conference or region opponents only?
“Everything is changing so fast, so often,’’ Rerick said.
Because of North Dakota’s smaller population and smaller number of reported COVID-19 cases, Rerick said, “we’re probably in a better spot than most states.
“Right now we’re waiting for direction from the (Department of Public Instruction) and the Department of Health. I think that when it comes to extracurriculars, we’ll probably hitch our decision on whether or not students are in the schools. Any decision starts there.’’
Last spring, Rerick said, it was decided that there would be no extracurriculars until kids were in school. But he said he still doesn’t know if that will be a deciding factor.
“And I could see kids being in school and we don’t have competition,’’ Rerick said. “There are so many things in play. I don’t think anything has been ruled out.’’
East Grand Forks Senior High athletic director Scott Koberinski said his school is taking a business-as-usual approach in preparing for the fall sports season.
“People are trying to prepare,’’ Koberinski said. “But they don’t know what they’re preparing for. It’s a guessing game right now.’’
Koberinski said schools are expected to get more guidance from government officials on July 27.
“There are so many questions,’’ Koberinski said. “How many kids will be allowed on a bus? What will visiting teams do for locker rooms? What happens if somebody on a team tests positive for the virus?’’
Whatever happens, Lorenz said, sports will have a different look.
“There will be no high-fives, no chest or fist bumps, no hand-slapping,’’ Lorenz said. “I’m assuming those won’t take place. As far as social distancing, with 70 to 80 kids in the locker room, that will be tricky. I could see it on the sidelines. But you can’t have social distancing and play the game.
“We’ll go with whatever the government and the higher-ups say.’’
State high school association meetings in both Minnesota and North Dakota are coming up in July. Directives also are expected from governors and state agencies.
The opening practice of the fall season is Aug. 3, when North Dakota boys soccer teams begin.
“By midnight on Aug. 3, we will have to have direction,’’ Rerick said. “I’m certain we’ll have something in place before then.’’