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St. James football and volleyball look to see positives as seasons get pushed to spring

Sean Ellertson
Editor

On August 4th, the Minnesota State High School League announced that fall sports football and volleyball would be moved to the spring as the COVID-19 pandemic starts to affect the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

For the Saints football program, the move to the spring has compounded what has already been a heavy last nine months, dating back to December, when the program announced they would be playing a junior varsity only schedule.

For head coach Jon Wilson, the move to the spring is another adjustment he's had to make for his program.

"It seems like a complete hurricane-whirlwind-type with football," said Wilson. "It's been difficult to figure out not only what a JV season would have looked like with the cancellation. It's been quite difficult to keep everybody on task about what we're going to do."

Over the summer, the program had to cancel numerous camps, 7 on 7 practices, and other programs.

Despite the limited summer work, Wilson noted that numbers for the summer camps that were held were up from previous years. The lack of numbers was one of the main reasons behind the cancellation of a varsity season.

"Typically, we've had workouts in the summer in the past and haven't had much for participation. Numbers have been through the roof basically from what we thought was going to happen." 

Wilson estimates that a total of 30 players total from grades 9-12. 

The influx in numbers at the high school level combined with the push-back could lead the Saints to see a couple of varsity games this spring.

"I think for our program, personally, this is probably the best thing that could have happened to us for anything. With the year that we were going to have with the JV stuff, this is going to allow us to get a little extra time in the fall with these kids to improve their fundamentals as a Saints football player."

Now, with an extra six months to not only prepare athletes but recruit more players, 

"For the first time in a long time, I think there's an excitement to play football here."

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This summer, the St. James volleyball program was ramping up for a fall season where the club would look to build momentum following an 11-13 finish a year ago.

Two weeks ago, those plans to play in the fall were interrupted.

"We kind of assumed that we weren't going to have a fall season being an indoor sport," said head coach Jodi Geistfeld. "Obviously it's disappointing and we'd like to have our normal schedule, but on the other hand, who knows? We could have been two weeks in and then it could have gotten canceled and then we were done and we wouldn't have anything. So now we have something to look forward to in the spring."

As opposed to normal years, this year's summer practices were essentially individual workouts, with Geistfeld and her staff working one on one with players.

"A lot of our plans for this summer went down the drain but we adapted," said Geistfeld. "The individual practices actually were great with the girls because we could—instead of looking at 15 at one time— we could see that one girl for half an hour." 

The volleyball program will be allowed to practice in the fall and the time between the end of the basketball season and the beginning of the volleyball season may lead to Geistfeld's girls being in better shape than they would be if they started in the fall.

Regardless of the switch, Geistfeld says the goals and expectations for her club remain the same.

"We have high expectations for our team this year. We have a lot of good talent coming back and some young girls stepping in for what we lost so our expectations are still the same."