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New York athletes received the green light from the Department of Health to begin practice on Feb. 1.

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HOOSICK, N.Y. — The Twitter hashtag #LetUsPlay has been used by New York State athletes pleading with Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the opportunity to return to competition, which has yet to begin for moderate and high-risk sports throughout the state.

A similar movement #LetThemPlay has been used by others throughout the state associated with the New York State Public High School Athletic Association: Coaches, parents and fans.

It appears these individuals have finally made some progress. On Friday the New York State Department of Health updated its guidance, allowing practices to begin on Feb. 1 for all winter sports.

“Effective February 1, 2021, participants in higher risk sports and recreation activities may partake in individual or distanced group training and organized no/low-contact group training,” the guidance reads.

“We are extremely thankful to Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health for providing authorization for all sports to begin,” said Dr. Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA Executive Director. “I am thrilled our association’s member schools will be able to provide over two hundred thousand students with valuable and beneficial participation experiences. Today is certainly a great day for the students of New York State.”

According to the DOH, higher risk sports are characterized by “Least ability to maintain physical distance and/or be done individually; Least ability to: (1) avoid touching of shared equipment, (2) clean and disinfect equipment between uses by different individuals, or (3) not use shared equipment at all.”

These sports include football, wrestling, ice hockey, rugby, basketball, contact lacrosse, volleyball, martial arts, competitive cheer and group dance.

The return of games will be reliant on approval from “the respective local health authorities (i.e., county health departments).”

Wasaren league athletes — which includes both Cambridge and Hoosick Falls — have felt the effects of COVID as much as anybody throughout the state, as the league decided to move all fall sports to the spring season. That means aside from low-contact sports such as bowling, there has been no competition throughout the league since the shutdown in March.

Cambridge girls basketball coach Bob Phillips — whose team three-peated as sectional champions last season before state championships were canceled — is excited that his players will have the opportunity to step on the court as a team again for the first time in more than 10 months.

“Especially excited for the kids,” Phillips said. “Kids have been missing out on their winter sports since November, so I’m very excited for them to move forward and hopefully have somewhat of a season, no matter what it looks like.”

Hoosick Falls boys basketball coach Mike Lilac shared the Cambridge coach’s excitement.

“We’re excited,” Lilac said of his team. “I already texted the guys, a lot of texts going back and forth. My fellow coaches in the league, everybody’s excited. Ready to do whatever we got to do to be ready to hit the ground running on Feb. 1.”

It is a major first step for New York athletes, although it doesn’t guarantee games will be played. Phillips is just happy for the opportunity to get his team back in the gym practicing together.

“No matter what it looks like, I think it will be better than nothing,” he said.

Michael Mawson can be reached on Twitter @Mawson_Sports or via email at mmawson@benningtonbanner.com.


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