VALLEY — Although not all Northern Tier League member schools will be able to go back to work for another week, winter sports are set to return next week in Pennsylvania after Governor Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that the mitigation orders would end that day.
The state has been on a three-week pause after the governor put a ban on extra-curricular activities, among other things, which stopped sports teams from practicing or competing since Dec. 13.
“There have been some positive signs lately,” Wolf said during his press conference on Wednesday. “Our statewide positivity rate went down this week for the second week in a row. While the number of hospitalizations and deaths remain entirely too high in Pennsylvania, it appears the number of new cases reported each day has plateaued. That means our mitigation efforts over the past several weeks have done what they were intended to do.”
Also ending on Monday will be limitations that didn’t allow gatherings of more than 10 people indoors, which had closed indoor dining among other things.
Teams can start practicing Monday, and even if teams have met their 10 practice minimum, which the PIAA lowered from the normal 15, they still need four practices before they can play, which means teams in the state can play as early as Jan. 8.
While practices are allowed to return Monday, not all teams are able to do that.
While Athens isn’t in person on Monday, they will be returning.
“We were very happy with the news last night from the Athens athletic committee that they agreed to allow us to start practicing again Monday, Jan. 4 even though Athens will still be going to school remotely until Jan. 11,” Athens’ boys’ basketball coach Jim Lister said. “This will give us the opportunity to get our five additional practices in that we need to complete and fulfill the required 10 from the PIAA. If everything goes smoothly next week, we should be able to have our first game at Williamson on Saturday night, Jan. 9.”
Lister knows his kids are happy to be back.
“As far as the kids go, they just cannot wait to get back on the floor,” Lister said. “These kids have suffered enough and they are ready to go. We are really looking forward to it and I am thrilled for them.”
Brian Miller, the girls coach at Athens, is also happy to see things returning.
“My players are excited to get back at some hoops and some games as early as Saturday (the 9th),” Miller said. Great news last 24 hours — last night, and today (the school and the governor). Great news for the kids in a short amount of time.”
The girls are hoping to try and get a game to play on the 9th as the boys will start that day.
“I am assuming the kids will be excited to start,” Athens girls’ swim coach Shauntel Place said. “Hopefully they all will return.”
While some schools are back on Monday, others have to wait a bit more.
Canton’s teams can return to practice on Jan. 8
“Which means our first game date could be the 12th,” Canton boys’ basketball coach Brock Kitchen said. “As of right now we are scheduled to play the 13th vs. CV. Looking forward to getting back, but we will have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.”
Wellsboro is another team that will be a bit later starting back up.
“Wellsboro has to wait an additional week, but the kids are ready to get started,” Wellsboro boys’ basketball coach Steve Adams said.
Some schools still are awaiting word on when they will be back playing sports as their schools are still meeting to make decisions.
There will still be attendance limits indoors this winter, as it will be a percentage-of-capacity as it was at the end of the fall seasons. And, the mask mandate remains in place at this time, meaning wrestlers and basketball players would have to wear one when they compete.