Get the basketballs out, roll out the mats, and blow the whistle, high school sports are coming back.By Shelby Cassesse

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Tomorrow, the restrictions put in place over the holidays to fight the spread of COVID-19 will expire and some schools will head back to in-person learning and winter sports will begin.

Coaches in the area say they’ve spent a lot of time on video chat the last few weeks preparing their playbooks and perfecting their safety protocols with their athletes.

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After a brief pause under the COVID-19 mitigation measures, high school sports will once again resume on Monday.

So break out the basketball, grab the goggles, and roll out the wrestling mats – high school sports are back.

“This is like Christmas morning again for them tomorrow, to get out there with their buddies again,” said Jeff Ackermann the Baldwin boy’s basketball coach. “You wake up tomorrow and you just have a little jump in your step.”

K-12 youth sports were among the activities suspended in Pennsylvania after the health department’s latest COVID-19 restrictions, which expire on Monday, January 4.

Ackerman is in his first season as the head coach of the boy’s basketball team at Balwin High School and he’s thrilled to be back but is taking things a day at a time.

“When we tip-off Friday night against Mt. Lebanon, I’ll believe that when I see it because the way things are going now, you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

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With a fresh start, coaches and athletes have their fingers crossed for a complete season.

For Dori Oldaker, the coach of the Mt. Lebanon girl’s basketball team, that means a close watch over team safety measures.

“They’re practicing with their masks, hand sanitizers, we’re going to stay 6 feet apart when we can,” she said. “We just want to be super smart, as smart as we possibly can be.”

Monday will only mark the first day back at practice.

PIAA rules dictate teams have to have four practices before competition resumes.

“We’re just thrilled to death to be playing any game at this point,” Oldaker said. “But whatever we get, we will try to do our best to provide a fun, safe environment and hopefully get some wins.”

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In terms of fan attendance – tomorrow’s gathering limits will once again be dictated by the state’s maximum occupancy calculator.