Superior High School announced Thursday that it is moving its football and volleyball seasons to the spring.
Activities director Ella Olson said the school is adopting the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association option of an alternative fall season, which the organization approved at a Board of Control meeting last Friday due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The biggest reason is our athletes’ safety, and not only the athletes but the coaches, community and staff,” Olson said. “We know that we need to be careful and conscious of where we travel, and what sports needs to look like during the spread of a virus.”
Instead of beginning practice Sept. 7, the volleyball season will start the week of Feb. 22 and football will commence the week of March 8. Spring sports will be pushed back until May.
The other fall sports; boys and girls cross country, girls golf, girls swimming, boys soccer and girls tennis, will go on as scheduled. All except boys soccer began practicing earlier this week. Boys soccer starts Sept. 7.
Superior’s football and volleyball coaches were on board with the decision.
“I think it’s the best news we can get right now and gives us the best chance to have a schedule and play meaningful competition,” Spartans football coach Bob DeMeyer said. “As much as I would love to play right now and try to make a run at it this fall, I think this is the best decision possible with the scenario that we’re in right now and gives us the best chance to have a season.”
Fellow Big Rivers schools Eau Claire Memorial and Eau Claire North also will play football in the spring, while Chippewa Falls, Hudson, Menomonie, Rice Lake and River Falls are expected to maintain a fall schedule.
“There’s going to be challenges in finding teams to play, but we’ve got a line on some possibilities already,” DeMeyer said. “There’s a lot of other schools around the state that are making the same decision to move to the spring. There’s lots of teams looking for games.
“If things work out the way we’re planning, I really like the look of what that schedule would be.”
Volleyball coach Brenda Pluntz said a survey that was sent to volleyball players and their parents came back overwhelmingly in favor of moving the season.
“It’s the best decision for us,” Pluntz said. “We’re in the Lake Superior Conference and we would have lost those games.”
Since Minnesota announced Aug. 4 it would move volleyball to a mid-March start time and since Superior currently allows only local competition in high-risk sports, the volleyball team had just one match on its schedule, against Ashland.
“I was very supportive of (moving the season),” Pluntz said. “I felt that the athletes would have a better chance if we moved it to the spring.”
Olson said Minnesota moving those sports played a role in Superior’s decision.
“Taking all things into consideration, we felt that this decision was the best for our athletes and being able to compete in their respective sports,” said Olson, who began her current job July 1.
The remaining fall sports will be altered in other ways. The golf team intends to play conference-only dual meets instead of invitationals, tennis will play only singles matches, and though Wisconsin guidelines do not prohibit it, the cross country teams will face no more than two opponents at a time.
Swimmers must wear masks until they dive into the pool and the only invitationals they will be a part of might be virtual ones.
“We have significantly lessened the competition and the duration (of contact with others),” Olson said. “Coaches are in support of that. We’re toying around with the idea of getting a virtual swim meet going. We might see an invitational in a virtual form, where there’s only one team in the pool but competing against a bunch of others at the same time.”
Changes also are being made in regard to fan attendance: only essential personnel (players, officials, game workers, media, medical) will be allowed at swim meets, while social distancing and masks are required at outdoor events. No admission will be charged nor will any concessions be offered.
Superior is using a hybrid model of teaching in the fall, with two days of in-classroom instruction and three days of virtual studying, beginning Sept. 1.
DeMeyer believes if students can handle obstacles such as those, playing outdoors in potentially nasty weather conditions won’t be an issue.
“That’s a minor challenge compared to some of the other things we’ve gone through the last few months,” he said.
The WIAA is still assessing postseason possibilities for spring football and volleyball.