Coaches in state of disbelief
The message was brief but hurtful.
The Minnesota State High School League made this announcement on April 23, 2020: “Minnesota State High School League spring athletics and fine arts have been cancelled for the remainder of their seasons."
The announcement continued: "With this cancellation, all athletics are out of season."
This announcement affects Blooming Prairie's three spring sports teams: baseball, softball and track.
"I have been in a state of disbelief after hearing news that our season has been cancelled," remarked Awesome Blossoms softball coach Jenna Volgarino. She is in her second year of coaching softball in Blooming Prairie.
Coach Volgarino says she held onto some hope that the team would be able to play this season.
"It is difficult to wrap my head around this as I think about how challenging this is for our senior athletes," Volgarino said. "I hope to coach for many years to come, but this was their last shot at playing softball for their school and community," she said with sadness.
Baseball Coach Matt Kittelson says he misses being around the guys and being at the field. "It’s the kids that I feel for," he said.
"I get to do this again next year," Coach Kittelson said, "but these kids only have so long to play the sports they love." He added, "Our seniors don’t have another chance so they are the ones who are really affected."
Kittelson said he wrote his players and told them how sorry he was. "I really feel horrible for them losing out on their spring season. However, our job is to teach these kids and that includes more than just athletics.
"I tried to encourage them to look at the positives of the situation, whether it be they get to spend more time together with their families or whatever it may be.
"For the kids who are coming back next year I encourage them to let this be a harsh reminder to never take anything for granted, and to let it motivate them to lift weights and hone their skills so that when they get the opportunity to get back on the field they can be their very best."
Volgarino said as a team, she and the players have worked hard to stay connected. The team members have weekly ZOOM meetings where they discuss "this roller coaster of emotions," she said.
Coach Volgarino put player signs on the ball field to honor the lost season. Players have made encouraging videos for the seniors.
"It is important we stick together as a team to support our seniors through these challenging times," said Coach Volgarino. "If there is one takeaway from this situation, it is that we are a team both on and off the field," she believes.
Volgarino (Krell) was a member of the 2013 Blooming Prairie state championship softball team.
"It’s devastating, and my heart goes out to all athletes and especially to all the seniors," says Awesome Blossoms track coach Alli Schmidt. "Blooming Prairie has had an exceptional year for all athletics and the energy coming into this season and personal goals were so high," she adds.
Schmidt says as a first-year coach, she was looking forward to this season to be working with "an awesome track staff and getting to know all of our athletes and helping them reach their goals."
With COVID-19, all of that is taken away and "we don't know what could have been," Schmidt continued.
The coaching staff, Schmidt said, has reached out to the athletes to let them know they understand this is a crazy time. "We are here for them if they need anything at all, whether it be sports, school work or anything in life," she said with assurance.
Senior track participants will be honored for the time and commitment they had given to track over the years, Schmidt remarked.
Former head varsity softball coach Ali Mach said she hasn't "fully processed" the decision of Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota State High School League have made to call of the spring sports season.
"As a spring coach myself, it’s been weird coming home from school and not having a practice or game to run to," Mach said. "I feel bad for our families, athletes, coaches and the community because sports are such a social event and are sometimes the highlight of a day," she added.
Mach, who serves as activities direction and associate high school principal, says the school's No. 1 priority is the safety of its students.
"I am sad for our seniors because many of them looked forward to finishing their careers on their terms," she said. "They should be proud of the impact they made through the years, however," she pointed out.
In spite of sadness and disappointment they are feeling, our seniors have always shown strong leadership and resiliency, Mach said. "They should be proud of the year they had and all of their accomplishments; they need to look forward to their futures as they are bright," she concluded.