As the fall high school sports seasons looms, players, coaches, fans and athletic directors continue to work through these times of uncertainty not knowing if, or when there will be competition. Marshall High School Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Matt Kleinheinz says that with information changing regularly, he’s had to live day by day and week by week in preparing for Fall sports. He says it’s been a “summer of unknowns” as once they realized the spring sports season wasn’t going to happen, they had to start talking graduations and scholarship nights, then summer contact days, and now Fall sports. He adds that just when you think you are starting to get ahead, something new comes up and changes plans.
One of the most challenging issues when it comes to high school sports, and if it will go on this Fall, is that things are so variant from district to district and county to county. Marshall is in eastern Dane County, where health regulations have been tightened up over the last few weeks. Kleinheinz says the challenging thing about planning for potential competition is that his school, and most of the Madison and suburban area schools in Dane County, may be in a situation where they are prevented from certain activities, while teams just eight miles down the road in a different county are open for business. He says talking to athletic directors across the states that’s not unique as many are in the same situation.
Kleinheinz says that he thinks that most athletic directors would like some more guidance from powers that be but doesn’t faults the WIAA for not wanting to make a blanket ruling for all schools at this point because things are so different across the state. He says the WIAA is in a tough spot because you have some counties that have single digit cases of Covid-19 and others that have 1000s of cases. He’s not sure its fair to treat them all the same, but then that leaves another decision up to local leaders who are also struggling to decided what is best for their areas across the board.
If a football season is allowed to start on schedule, Marshall will be moving to the new eight team Eastern Suburban Conference and be the only district in Dane County. That means they might be working under a different set of guidelines than other schools in their league. If current rules are not lifted, they might be in a situation where they would not be able to host a game on campus and have to play all road games.
With the start of the prep seasons getting closer every day, Kleinheinz says that there is no timetable for when a decision on the fate of the season might be made. He says that he’s advised his coaches to prepare like they are going to start as scheduled but be prepared to adjust and revamp their schedules as changes come. He says if Dane County doesn’t adjust regulations, then at some point the Marshall School District will have to decide what’s the safest thing to do for the kids, families and community.
If they do go ahead with the Fall prep seasons, Kleinheinz says a lot of questions still need to be answered. Some of those include; What do they do if a player tests positive? Do they need to shut down for two weeks? Do their previous opponents have to shut down for two weeks? Does the entire team need to get tested before they can return to competition? He says there are so many unknowns right now with no real road map to follow.
In the last few weeks, a plan was floated out there by schools in the southwestern part of the state that would move this falls sports, to the spring of 2021 and push the spring sports to the summer months. Kleinheinz says that he thinks that plan is gaining a little bit of momentum. If that move was made you might have issues such as field conditions for football and soccer teams in March. The potential change would also throw a monkey wrench into the Spring sports season for the 2nd straight year.
Kleinheinz says that today will begin the first of four contact days for the Marshall football team and they plan on holding them as safely as possible. He says they will be doing a lot of individual work with lot of sanitation going on between drills. He adds that coaches will be wearing masks and the players will be spread out. He says they won’t be able to do much team offense or defense, but feels it’s important for the squad to get together to see their coaches and teammates faces in smaller groups. The basketball and volleyball teams are also holding workouts this month inside the gym, which means everyone involved will be wearing masks.
With many health and safety regulations being released almost daily, Kleinheinz reminds everyone not to get worked up about something they read or hear about as they are just guidelines and not specific mandates. It will be up to each district to look at those guidelines and adapt them to best fit their needs.
If the football season does get played this year, Marshall will be in the new Eastern Suburban Conference along with Cambridge, Clinton, Waterloo, Dodgeland, Markesan, Palmyra-Eagle and Pardeeville. Kleinheinz says that even though they will be seeing some new opponents, their long standing rivalries with Waterloo and Cambridge will remain intact. Travis Wilson of wissports.net labeled Marshall a “Team To Watch” in his preseason Division Five football rankings.
Click the link to hear a complete interview with Marshall Athletic Director and Football Coach Matt Kleinheinz. He was a guest on WBEV’s Community Comment program on Friday, July 17th.
If you have a question about this story or have an idea for a future local sports story, please email Wade Bates at [email protected]