High school athletes, coaches, and school officials are preparing for a January 4 start to in-person practice for the prep winter sports season. Teams are planning to operate under health protocols including pods, distancing, and mask usage. A member of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) staff on Tuesday indicated there is a chance that athletes will also need to wear masks during competition.

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In a story published by the Star Tribune, MSHSL associate director Bob Madison says, "We should be prepared to have to wear masks in sports for practice and competition." Though he further stated that's not a certainty. The high school league met virtually with activities directors from around the state Tuesday.

In a conversation for the AM 1390 KRFO Coaches Show Saturday, December 26, Owatonna High School gymnastics coach Evan Moe said masks on gymnasts could slide around their face and possibly cover their eyes during their performances.

In a recently aired interview, OHS wrestling coach Adam Woitalla said Michigan plans to use masks for its wrestlers during matches and he wonders how well that will work.

During the fall sports season, athletes were not required to wear masks during competition, though some did, notably in volleyball. Players on the bench or sidelines did wear masks.

Madison said starting the season without fans would prevent groups from gathering, "allowing us to get started, minimizing interruptions or disruptions due to that environment being uncontrolled." During the fall season, 250 fans were allowed at outdoor events, such as soccer and football. Volleyball allowed players to invite two spectators each. Girls swimming did not allow fans at all.

While practice is being allowed to start January 4, no date has been set by the MSHSL to begin competitions. Most coaches I have spoken with are excited to have a date to begin in-person practice and believe a season will occur.

Listen to the AM 1390 KRFO High School Coaches Show each Saturday morning at 9 am, featuring coaches from Owatonna, Blooming Prairie, NRHEG, Medford, and Triton.

Quiz: How many of these spots in Southeast Minnesota can you name?