The Case for Spring Football in Minnesota
As a lifelong Minnesotan, I’ve become accustomed to the cold, rainy, and snow-filled weather we typically experience during the season we consider “Spring”. I’m also a lifelong Minnesota sports fan, so I’m also accustomed to heartbreak, irrationality, and elevated stress. If you are like me, I look forward to spring every year. It is the time of year when the weather is supposed to get gradually warmer and the upcoming Summer vacation is inching closer and closer. If you were also like me in high school, you would have participated in some sort of spring activity and that activity was located outdoors (i.e. baseball, golf, track, etc.). I cannot count the number of times that we lost games, practices, and time spent outdoors due to the poor conditions caused by the weather. It was frustrating, but it was out of our hands.
With that in mind, the last thing you’d probably come to expect from me would be an endorsement of Spring Football in Minnesota. In fact, that is exactly the endorsement that you’d get from me: I believe Minnesota High Schools and the Minnesota State High School League should allow organized Spring Football practices. Am I crazy? It wouldn’t surprise me. Am I irrational? Probably, but give me a chance to explain my rationale. Judge my mental clarity on this explanation and decide for yourself if Spring Football makes sense for Minnesota.
In order to have Spring Football in Minnesota, I would only endorse it if it came with a few stipulations. To date, these stipulations do not exist and would require the MSHSL to alter their regulations and structure to make them work. Let’s assume for the sake of my argument that the MSHSL was open to making Spring Football a reality and sought out my theory for reference. Here would be my requirements:
1) Track season would be shifted from a March through early June season to a March through mid-May season. This would require more indoor meets early in the season, but they could be accommodated.
2) Baseball season would be shifted exclusively to Summer, beginning in June and ending in late July. For those that are unfamiliar with the baseball structure in Minnesota, Minnesota’s high school baseball season runs from late March through early June and then during the summer time, players participate in what’s called Legion baseball. This is basically a community, club-based, league and organization that has its own state tournament, but doesn’t necessarily have representation from every community that schools are located in.
3) Spring Football would be open from the last two weeks of May through the first two weeks of June. If teams wanted to participate in “team camps” hosted by colleges across the region, they’d need to have them completed by the end of the Spring Football period. Teams would be allotted 10 team practices and 1 “Team Camp” or scrimmage if they choose.
4) Summer basketball leagues could not begin until the Spring Football period has ended. Most don’t begin until the second and third weeks of June or they are held on the weekends anyway, so this wouldn’t be that big of an adjustment.
The reason for these changes are rooted in a narrow-minded love of the game of football by myself. I fashion myself as a student of the game and I consume football 365 days a year. My appetite has yet to be met. As such, I want the opportunity to get to work with our players, get a jump on next season, and coach the game I love as much and as often as I can. While it may seem like it is a very minimal difference in time between having Spring Football at my proposed time and the beginning of allowed football activities at the beginning of Summer (i.e. how the current system is structured), the circumstances surrounding each of the dates are vastly different.
Under the current system, the odds that all of the players are able to attend the organized practice is minimal. Players hold Summer jobs, go on Summer vacations, and are already having their time fought over from all the other different organizations they commit themselves to. Players could conceivably have basketball practice (open gym or even summer league games), football workouts, and a baseball game in the same day! When you add in weight room and strength training, along with any other interests they may have, their time becomes extremely limited. More and more, athletes are having to choose and prioritize where they should go and when. This leads to more athletes choosing to quit sports in favor of specialization and nobody wants or benefits from that. Don’t forget, this is supposed to be Summer vacation! Athletes are spread so thin with their time now that the commitment to multiple activities becomes a full-time job in itself. Why not simplify their schedules by simplifying their options?
Most other sports in Minnesota have extra, organized time and opportunities during the school year to grow their players whether it is done by the schools themselves or club teams. Volleyball has the J.O. circuit, baseball and softball have fall leagues, basketball has the AAU circuit, and tennis and soccer have leagues in both the fall and spring as well; yet, football has the fall and the summer. As I’ve stated before, the summer is already jam-packed with other sports’ commitments that football rarely gets the full-attention and commitment that other sports do. I realize this depends on the school, athletes, and community, but I believe the generalization is fair.
With the plan I’ve proposed, athletes would have (at most) two sports they would need to commit themselves to at a given time. This would occur during the summer months during the first two weeks of baseball (i.e. football & baseball) and throughout the rest of July (basketball & baseball). During Spring Football, coaches and players would have the opportunity to all be present which promotes more collective growth and learning. If coaches were worried about overextending their players, they could opt to not hold a scrimmage or go to a team camp and instead end their Spring Football after the 10 practices are complete. The point behind all of this is that we would be reducing the time spent during the summer preparing, grooming, and growing our players and place it within the confines of the school schedule. This is much more efficient with players’ and coaches’ time.
It’s all very unlikely. The likelihood that decision makers would place one sport ahead of another and generate a schedule to accommodate the desires of that one sport is shaky at best. My reasons are selfish for having Spring Football, but I believe it’d be a great opportunity to improve the development of our players and help them become more nationally competitive on the recruiting circuits. It’d also help alleviate the football fix that I desire! Unfortunately, the amount of adjustments and work needed to accommodate my wishes are just too much to overcome.
Returning to my earlier proposition regarding my mental clarity, am I crazy? Is Spring Football in the Upper Midwest crazy? Probably; but, i’ll let you decide for yourself.