Athletics: A raise of a glass to area ADs

Norm Gallant.jpg
Wadena-Deer Creek Activities Director Norm Gallant (Photo courtesy of Heidi Nelson Photography)

It’s time to give credit where credit is due.

The amount of flexibility, creativity and mental gymnastics displayed by area high school activities directors, and ADs across the state, this short, but chaotic fall season is indeed deserving of praise.

So why not throw an early-season snowstorm or two at them. Bring on the locust next. They’ll find a way, within the constricting parameters of a pandemic, to squeeze in a junior varsity football game between section soccer championships while making sure the janitorial staff doesn’t go into overtime and the rosters, while still not on the new Minnesota State High School League website, get printed out for the 250 fans that are allowed into the venue.

And because there are only 250 fans allowed, our area ADs have to figure out how to pay the officials, coaches and workers with a limited budget.

So stand up and praise the work your school’s AD is doing this fall. They are earning their money, but because of all the rescheduling, postponements and new state safety guidelines, they haven’t had time to enjoy any of it.


I tweeted the other night that it’s a full-time job keeping up with all the schedule changes our area sports teams are enduring. But that’s not the only frustrating part of the AD’s job this fall.

“The timeliness of information has been challenging to manage,” Brainerd activities director Charlie Campbell said after calling this season a mixture of optimism, joy, excitement and frustration.

“We didn't learn until Aug. 5 that we'd even have a season,” he added. “Then we received sport-specific guidance on COVID-19 protocols the afternoon of Aug. 14, exactly three days before the seasons started. The guidance continued to change and evolve for each sport over the course of the entire fall season, too. Interpreting and executing ever-changing guidelines has been exhausting, to say the least.

“Managing spectators — who gets to come in and who has to stay out of our facility — is my new least favorite activity. We're learning, adapting, and creating entirely new systems in real-time. It's difficult, really, to articulate just how frustrating and stressful this season has been. It's important to be grounded in the larger purpose of our vocation during times like these, however.”

Campbell has been contacted by eight different school districts this week to use the turf field at Adamson Field on the campus of Brainerd High School. The uptick in requests is because of the recent snowstorms, which was one of the biggest arguments for moving football back into the fall. Staples-Motley moved its football game to Alexandria High School to use its turf field.

Adapting to frequent changes

Tim Tungseth might be wondering why he chose to change school districts in the middle of a pandemic. The new Pine River-Backus AD called the fall a challenging time.

“It has been different this year starting out at a new school and not having as many students in the building on a regular basis,” Tungseth said. “When we have hosted events, it has been refreshing to see students back participating and competing in the activities that they love.”

Tungseth’s last day as AD at Maple Lake was Aug. 27. He started at PR-B Aug. 31. Thankfully, Tungseth knew the area from his days as AD at Crosby-Ironton, but the lack of time to acclimate himself to the new school made things doubly difficult.


“I think the most frustrating component of the fall is all of the frequent changes and figuring out how to adapt to the changes while also being able to follow all of the proper COVID protocols and guidelines,” Tungseth said. “This fall started out slower with fewer activities but when the MSHSL voted to bring back football and volleyball in September that changed in a hurry.

Change is fast

Norm Gallant at Wadena-Deer Creek wears two hats in the fall as he’s an assistant football coach.

“Frustrating is a good word, challenging is better,” he said about this fall. “There have been so many challenges this fall; reversing the course and starting everything late and having to redo all the schedules, officials and bus times have been a challenge.

“Typically we have everything done a year ahead, so having to scramble to get everything going in a couple weeks or less was a challenge. Reworking cross-country and tennis to fit the parameters was a challenge. The lack of flexibility in the scheduling made it hard. We get new guidance nearly every day that is challenging. Adding spectators and the need for pre-registration and checking everyone in has been a real challenge.

“It's hard to find enough staffing to make it work. The COVID numbers and quarantines have now started to mushroom in the area and that has added additional challenges. Now, when you add weather on top of everything else, it makes things even more challenging. I think as a group, ADs are exhausted. It's been impossible to keep up with everything. It's what we do, though. We solve problems and we move on. I'm proud of the people I work with, they've been great and supportive. Our number one goal has been to give our students the best experience possible. I know we've been working hard to get that done. I understand people's frustrations, but we really have done a remarkable job of making as much work as possible.”

As is the case in most places communication is key and that’s led to one of Gallant’s biggest frustrations. He said most of the time information is on Twitter before ADs even hear about the changes.

“We get questioned on things we don't even know happened or we found out at the same time as everyone else in the world,” he added. “We don't get time to digest, we just have to react and adapt. The change to allow spectators with all the limitations the day of our first volleyball contest almost put me over the edge. I'm not saying I disagree with it, I have a daughter of my own playing, but to kind of put it out there at 10 a.m. with games starting at 4:30 p.m. and have pre-registration and everything else was overwhelming.”

Staying positive

At Wadena-Deer Creek, Gallant is just trying to stay positive and be a consistent example for the student-athletes.


“It's really day-by-day,” Gallant said. “The thing I have stressed to our staff is to enjoy every opportunity we get to be with the kids and make each day the best it can be because this year nothing is promised. I am normally upbeat and positive. This year, it has been very easy to be anxious and negative. It seems like every day we get more thrown at us. I try to just do my best to keep the ship heading in the right direction and do the best we can for our kids.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

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