You had to know when the football and volleyball seasons were reinstated in late September that it could all end like this.

Or worse.

On Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz put an end to the football and volleyball seasons, starting Saturday, hoping to curtail the impact of a surging number of COVID-19 cases that has hit Minnesota.

It was a sobering announcement. It was also predictable, given the number of schools who had already paused or shut down their remaining fall sports schedules because of COVID-19, which is hitting every segment of society with increasing viciousness.

Would it have been any better had we postponed football and volleyball to March, as was the original plan?

Maybe. Maybe not.

There were already going to be obstacles to spring seasons, just as there were for the late-fall seasons. The Minnesota State High School League listened to its member schools and reinstated shortened football and volleyball seasons in early October, constantly monitoring the pandemic landscape for changes.

Those changes have come. The population is getting infected at a rapid rate, and younger people, once thought to be at minimal risk, have started to experience more severe issues. Though high-school athletics likely don’t greatly contribute to the spread of the virus, it’s one of many factors, and it’s proper to take this pause.

Many, many coaches have talked about savoring every practice and game this fall because you never knew when it would end. Many of the athletes heeded that advice, having as much fun as possible in the time they’ve been given.

The schedule was crazy, with some teams playing all of their games and others rescheduling due to their own or opponent’s health concerns. Coaches, players and administrators have shown great flexibility in order to have the best possible experience for the athletes. Surely, there have been lessons learned that will be useful in the future.

This season was not going to be about the winning and losing, as state tournaments were never seriously considered. This was about kids playing a game they enjoyed, competing with friends and making a few lifelong memories.

Hopefully, those missions were accomplished. You can choose to grumble about how this season ended, or you can celebrate seven weeks of practices and games.

Perspective isn’t always easy, or popular. The athletes, the ones most affected by this craziness, have handled their unfortunate circumstances far better than the adults.

Now, we’ve got a month, at least, before high-school athletes can gather to play or practice again. Hopefully, in that time, the pandemic will abate or vaccines will protect some of the most vulnerable, and kids will be allowed to resume their athletic pursuits. We’re definitely in a better place when high-schoolers can compete, and we’re fortunate to be able to watch them, even if it is by video.

The last two months have been fun, and strange. The next month will be strange, and much less fun.

We all knew it could end like this. Thankfully, it didn’t end any sooner.

Chad Courrier is the Free Press sports editor. He’s at 507-344-6353, ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or on Twitter @ChadCourrier.

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