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TIMEOUT

Wolf calls for 3-week stoppage of all high school sports

Times Observer File Photo In this file photo, Youngsville’s Brady Olewine drives to the basket during the 2019-20 boys basketball season.

Warren County School District Superintendent Amy Stewart understands our hands are tied.

Despite protective measures the district has taken to keep schools and school extracurricular activities open since September, it’s time for a, well, a timeout.

Among further restrictive measures Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Thursday was a minimum three-week stoppage of all high school and youth sports practices and games in the state.

Scheduled practices after school on Thursday were canceled immediately. That comes the same week all schools in the district have gone virtual through at least Jan. 25 due to an extreme increase in COVID cases in the county, and a lessening of school staff.

“This is just another example of the roller coaster we have been on every day since March,” said Stewart. “The highs are exciting, but the lows are so incredibly disappointing.

Times Observer File Photo Among the winners of the 1982 Jamestown City Tennis Tournament was Tom Anderson, standing far right.

“The Warren County School District has approached decisions within our control about this pandemic steadily and consistently,” she said. “There is no avoiding COVID-19, so we have focused on managing it to the best of our ability. We predicted, early on, staff shortages would be the reason we would have to close, and that is what happened. I have no doubt we could have continued to manage our athletics teams and programs. We have had teams quarantined in the past. We have teams quarantined now. We understand how important these experiences are for so many of our students. We were able to pull off a pretty good fall season, but this winter season has not been lining up very well. Our coaches have been doing a great job with our kids, but when asked to travel two hours away and play contact sports with kids who may or may not be wearing masks has been difficult.

“Have we observed situations where kids play and do not spread COVID-19? Yes.

“Have we observed situations where kids play and they do spread COVID-19? Yes.

“Have we been able to manage it thus far? Yes.

“Should we be playing? I have been looking for the book with all the answers for months.”

“Here is what I do know,” continued Stewart. “I live my personal and professional life trying to focus my energy on things within my control. This decision is out of our control. Sports are everything to a lot of our kids, and without sports, they are struggling.

“A pause is better than a cancellation,” said Stewart. “Our kids deserve a whole season, not just one or two games, meets, or matches. COVID-19 has arrived in Warren County and people are losing loved ones. No one wants to lose a loved one due to contact related to athletics.”

While student-athletes have already adhered to restrictions in the fall and further restrictions this winter season, there are coaches acting as adults in the room that share Stewart’s sentiments.

“Obviously, there’s disappointment on the players and coaching level because you want to compete,” said Sheffield High School boys basketball coach Jordan Copley, “but the understanding of why this needs to happen is more important than the sport itself right now.

“We need to make sure everybody is safe,” he said. “Make sure we get this under control and have a season. For the betterment of people, it’s what we’ve got to focus on as a nation. It might be bigger than high school sports right now, but let’s hope we take care of it so we can get back into the gym.”

Wolf’s restrictions did not include college or professional sports in Pennsylvania. His announcement also comes the same week PIAA voted to proceed with whatever semblance of a winter season restrictions will allow.

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