We now have a date for the start of in-person practice for the high school winter sports season. We don't know when competition will begin. And don't even start on the question of a state tournament. After the extension to the Executive Order that went into effect November 20, Governor Walz indicated Wednesday that youth sports practice may begin January 4. It was originally set to expire December 18.

In a press release from the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), executive director Erich Martens states, "This opportunity to participate in athletics and activities also comes with great responsibility. It is critical that all students, coaches, directors, and officials maintain the highest standard of health and safety, bot in and outside of school."

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The release from the MSHSL also states, "The first date of competition under the new directive has not yet been determined."

In a recent "Coffee and Conversation" session, Owatonna Public Schools superintendent Jeff Elstad indicated that Big Nine activities directors were moving in a proactive measure to pencil in January 4 as a day to begin practice. He also indicated January 14 would be the date to start competition. The new action by the governor leaves that up to the air.

The Star Tribune reports that Walz said, "We can limit risk for participants, coaches, and families by first returning to practices in smaller groups with heightened precautions. By starting small and keeping transmission low now, we can begin to consider returning to games and competitions that require interactions between different teams and the presence of spectators."

Among the sports that can begin in-person practice for the first time on January 4 are wrestling, boys and girls hockey, boys and girls basketball, gymnastics, and boys swimming and diving. Dance teams may resume in-person practice. Adapted Floor Hockey may also begin practice.

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