The Minnesota State High School League sent out additional mask guidance to its member schools this week. The guidance states that all participants, coaches, and officials are required to wear a mask while participating in athletic events. Specifically, those not adhering to the rules may risk their "eligibility to play, coach or officiate." But is everyone adhering to the rules? The answer I've found is not all the time.

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Now there are some exemptions from wearing a mask while competing in some specific sports, those exceptions are for: Wrestling, Gymnastics and Cheerleading, Swimming and Diving, and Nordic and Alpine Skiing. There are also medical exceptions from competing in a sport that isn't one of the sports listed above. The MSHSL guidelines state that "A licensed medical provider, working within the scope of their license, certification, and training and is qualified to diagnose the individual’s condition, can provide a mask exemption."

Now, that the above information has been laid out, and noting that any medical information that is given to the school generally won't be shared publically, due to data practices by the school, it appears not all schools have been practicing or participating following these guidelines.

In a recent Southern Minnesota varsity hockey game, it appeared that several participants on the opposing team were not wearing masks. [I'm not outing the school as I don't have any proof that these students weren't on a medical exemption list, nor is there a great picture from the game showing the players.] Pictures from the opposing team's practices in early to mid-January that were sent to me show that there were players and coaches, not in compliance with the policies at that time. From the time these pictures were taken in mid-January to now, the webcam service now requires a password to watch.

Image Credit: Paul Shea/TSM
Image Credit: Paul Shea/TSM
Image Credit: Paul Shea/TSM
Image Credit: Paul Shea/TSM

In an email to that school district's Superintendent about the pictures I had received the response was that they had "addressed this matter last week" and "We adhere to the MSHSL and MDH policy on masking in practice and competition. This applies to coaches and athletes."

The municipality that owns the rink in which that team plays and practices; when asked about what policies they have in place for mask-wearing, I got back this:

"If there is an incident of non-compliance we first try and educate the person/group on the safety protocols. If they continue to refuse compliance we would ban them from using the facility. There are times we have to communicate with the various organizations that use the facility about the violations in the event a future ban may need to be enforced.  Typically we get great responses and compliance."

An attachment to the emailed response outlined the municipality's COVID preparedness plan, here are the first three bullet points on masks at the municipal rink.

  • Masks are required to be worn by employees and visitors even when social distancing of 6 feet or more can be maintained.
  • Masks may not be temporarily removed while actively participating in an organized sport where the level of exertion makes wearing a face covering difficult.
  • Masks are required to be worn by all employees and visitors at all times.

As seen from the above photos this isn't the case. An adult is seen in one of the pictures with their mask on their chin.

The pictures also were accompanied by a forwarded message sent to all MSHSL officials noting "Over the weekend, we received multiple reports of non-compliance for the mask requirement by student-athletes, coaches, and officials...If non-compliance continues, it is possible that the local school administrator, the MSHSL Board of Directors or the MDH may require another pause in participation."

My friend who sent me all this information is an area youth COVID coordinator and worries that by not having participants, coaches, and officials following the mask policies "it will make our youth not play because the state will shut the whole place down."

We just got athletics back, I for one enjoy going to watch a hockey game or wrestling meet, let's not lose them again.

However, you feel about masks is how you feel about them. If you want your kids to play MSHSL governed athletics have them wear a mask.

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