Football and volleyball coaches reflect on a shortened COVID-19 season


Dani Fraher, News Writer

Football and volleyball are back! In a sudden turnaround, the district voted that the sports would resume a fall season, and two coaches, Nick Johnson of football and Katherine Gillen of volleyball, weren’t surprised.

“We had thought this was a decent possibility,” says Johnson. “You don’t schedule another vote if you’re just going to vote the same.”

While the outcome seemed clear, the timing was less than perfect. Coach Gillen was reading her Twitter when she found out the news. Says Gillen, “I was expecting a season to happen but was not expecting it to have to happen in one week! That is a very short turnaround time to get things organized, ordered, and for players to sign up.” 

Both coaches wish they had started practices earlier. With the first football game right around the corner, Johnson wished for more time. “Usually we have months to prepare for this. We only have a week,” he remarks.

“We should have started back in August when we were supposed to,” laments Gillen. “Nothing has changed scientifically with COVID, but somehow now it’s ok to play… It doesn’t make sense.”

COVID-19 is an enemy that doesn’t care about home team advantage, so following pandemic protocols is crucial. Coaches and players are required to wear a mask—the only exception being football players when they put their helmets on—and equipment is sanitized after it’s used. In volleyball, parent’s aren’t allowed in the gym, and there is a limited number of people overall. In football, only one or two of each player’s parents is allowed in the stands; students will not be able to attend any games this year.

If a player does get sick, the team they belong to will all have to quarantine for fourteen days—assuming they were in close contact with each other, that is. This is Johnson’s biggest concern for the season. “ We only get to play six games, and if somebody gets sick, our team gets shut down. We would miss out on at least two games,” he says. “I would feel horrible for the seniors. They’ve had quite a bit of a rollercoaster with [cancellations due to the pandemic].”

But the coaches’ aren’t so easily discouraged. Says Johnson, “It is what it is, and I try to do it with a smile on my face… I’m glad there’s excitement, and it’ll be fun to see what we can actually do [this season].”

Both the volleyball and football seasons concluded on November 20 due to the COVID-19 case rates in Minnesota and the Governor’s Executive Order 20-99. Both teams had a season that lasted 8 weeks, just short of the planned 10 weeks for football and 11 weeks for volleyball.