High school league flip flops on youth athletes wearing masks outdoors

Now they tell us. After strictly enforcing Gov. Tim Walz’s mandate that participants must wear protective masks in order to play youth sports indoors and out, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) has gotten religion.

Well, almost gotten religion. Masks still need to be worn in outdoor spring sports activities at all times, until participants step up to the plate or onto the track and playing field.

The Minnesota State High School League’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee unanimously approved the following position regarding the wearing of masks in outdoor sports during spring competition to the Board of Directors:

In all outdoor sports, masks are required to be worn properly at all times, except during the times when a student-athlete is actually competing.

Student-athletes must continue to wear a mask until the competition is about to begin at which time they may remove their mask as they enter the competition surface or are at the start of a race.

Masks MUST be replaced, and worn at all times, immediately following the competition and during all breaks in competition (ie: entering the dugout between innings, leaving the track at the conclusion of a race, returning to the bench area, etc.)

But as usual, there’s a catch. The Minnesota Department of Health needs to approve the MSHSL’s recommendation to join what neighboring states have done all along, namely letting their students competing outdoors to do so without forcing them to mask up unnecessarily.

“It is critical for our member schools and participants to recognize that the state requirements and our guidance to member schools has not changed,” League Executive Director Erich Martens said. “Yet, we appreciate the review and subsequent position of our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee on this important issue. We hope to work collaboratively with the Minnesota Department of Health to modify their guidance on the wearing of masks in our outdoor competitions.”

The MSHSL’s news release gave no reason or scientific basis why the organization abruptly announced a new policy on wearing masks in contradiction of state guidelines. Not surprisingly the unexpected news that Minnesota might join surrounding states by liberating youth athletes from what many parents believe to be an unhealthy restriction was embraced by students and coaches contacted by Forum Communications.

Everything about this is a welcome sight to students and coaches. Spud athletes are back outside practicing and competing, but the Minnesota rules for high school athletes have included masking during competition. For Moorhead High Senior Evan Myran, hopes are high for getting the mask rule lifted.

“It will be a lot better to just approach the race without worrying about all these other variables with the masks,” Myran said. “We practice good social distancing outside of competing and we are safe on he bus, so if this gets the green light we will be safe and covid free.”

It’s hard to imagine the politically correct MSHSL taking this step without checking in advance with the state. Still, parents, schools and student athletes won’t be able to breathe easier until and unless the Minnesota Health Department signs off on it.