By Tim Leeds 

MHSA postpones speech, debate and drama due to COVID-19


Last updated 9/24/2020 at 11:34am

Although fall sports are in full swing in Montana High Schools, Montana High School Association announced Wednesday that the speech, debate and drama competitive season will have its start date pushed back two months.

Competitive speech normally starts in Montana the first week of October and runs through the state tournaments held the end of January.

MHSA Assistant Director Scott Wilson said in an email to coaches that the MHSA executive board voted to postpone the start of the season to Dec. 1.

The state tournament dates will remain the same, Jan. 29-30, Wilson said.

“The goal of the MHSA and the MHSA Board is to have a competition season for speech and drama, while keeping the coaches, competitors and tournament volunteers as safe as possible,” Wilson said in the email.

The Board will make a decision at a later date about whether the 2020-2021 season will be either in-person tournaments or virtual tournaments or a combination, Wilson said.  This decision will be made by evaluating various COVID-19 factors during the next few weeks.

“The executive board will make their final decision in the best interest of students and coaches from across the state,” he said.

Wilson listed some of the board’s rationale for their decision, including that current MHSA guidelines do not allow for multi-school regular season in-person tournaments for indoor sports or activities. The guidelines only allow for head-to-head competition. 

“These same guidelines have led to the cancellation of the AIM Higher workshops scheduled this fall and winter,” Wilson said.

The delay of the start date will give schools a chance to plan for in-person tournaments, he said. If in-person tournaments are allowed, restrictions on the number of teams and/or competitors will be in place and plans would have to approved by the local county health department and the MHSA.

The delay of the start date to Dec. 1 also will give schools time to begin planning for virtual tournaments. 

“COVID-19 cases continue to reach high levels in Montana,” Wilson said. “In order to guarantee a season, coaches should become familiar with virtual tournament platforms.”

He said the delay also will give time for a new competition calendar to be set.

All of the classifications by schools will remain the same, he said, giving A and BC schools five weeks of regular season competition followed by divisionals and state, and six weeks of regular competition for AA schools followed by state.

Pushing the end of the season into February or March would create conflicts for hosting post-season tournaments, Wilson said.


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