Park Rapids prepares to open facilities to athletes

Community Education is also looking to begin athletic programs on June 15.

As part of the state’s next phase in its coronavirus response, gyms and fitness centers as well as pools and aquatic centers will be reopening soon with some restrictions, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and state officials announced at a June 5 press conference.

Also allowable? Sporting events, including youth sports practices.

Park Rapids Activities Director Jeremy Nordick said the school facilities will be open for coaches and supervisors to work with athletes beginning on June 15 with some restrictions. Park Rapids Community Education is in the process of planning some outdoor activities that could also begin as early as June 15. Those activities will not include competitive games.

“There are sports that you can play pretty easily six feet apart, even in a competition,” Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said. “You can play a tennis match a pretty good distance away from somebody. You can compete in a race a good amount of distance away from somebody. Five-on-five basketball is a little tougher to play competitively in a game with social distancing. You’d be a pretty bad basketball player if you tried to stay six feet apart from the person you’re trying to defend.”

The state has established some sports as low-risk (like tennis and golf) where games and competitions will be possible and others as high-risk (like basketball) where participants will be able to practice but game settings do not allow for social distancing.


Youth sports will be allowed to return with some restrictions. Guidance from the state says that within the youth sports programs, organizers should “create consistent pods of the same staff, volunteers and participants with a maximum number of 10 people (including an instructor) in each pod.”

Practices are to be held outdoors as much as possible and parents and caregivers are to be reminded not to attend. If they must, proper social distancing measures must be maintained. Intermixing between “pods” is not allowed and players should not have contact.

Nordick listed the following guidelines will be in place:

• There should be no shared athletic equipment (towels, clothing, shoes, or sports specific equipment) between students.

• All students shall bring their own water bottle. Water bottles must not be shared.

• Students should wear their own appropriate workout clothing (do not share clothing). Individual clothing/towels should be washed and cleaned (at home) after every workout.

• All athletic equipment, including balls, should be cleaned after each use and prior to the next workout.

• Individual drills requiring the use of athletic equipment are permissible, but the equipment should be cleaned prior to use by the next individual.


• Resistance training should be emphasized as body weight, sub-maximal lifts and use of resistance bands.

• Free weight exercises that require a spotter cannot be conducted while honoring social distancing norms. Safety measures in all forms must be strictly enforced in the weight room.

Following are guidelines for individual sports.

• A basketball player can shoot with a ball(s), but a team should not practice/pass a single ball among the team where multiple players touch the same ball.

• A football player should not participate in team drills with a single ball that will be handed off or passed to other teammates. Contact with other players is not allowed, and there should be no sharing of tackling dummies/donuts/sleds.

• A volleyball player should not use a single ball that others touch or hit in any manner.

• Softball and baseball players should not share gloves and bats or throw a single ball that will be tossed among the team. A single player may hit in cages and throw batting practice (with netting as backstop, no catcher). Prior to another athlete using the same balls, they should be collected and cleaned individually.

• Wrestlers may skill and drill without touching a teammate


• Tennis players may do individual drills, wall volleys and serves.

• Runners should maintain the recommended 6 feet of distancing between individuals.

“There will be many guidelines to follow for this to work. At the start, we will be in Phase 1 of the NFHS Guidelines. This means that we are limited to nine kids with one supervisor for each activity. We will need to be strict on the six-foot social distancing rules for every activity,” said Nordick, who noted that the summer waiver period starts on June 15 and goes until August 7 and the no-contact period is July 3-5. “The guidelines may change from Gov. Walz or the MDH at any given time. I am hoping that we can move through the phases quickly and get things going to full capacity by the time fall seasons start.”

(Betsy Hefland of the St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this story).

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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