HARRISBURG, Pa. - Student athletes in Pennsylvania may have to wait until 2021 to take the field. 

Pennsylvania is recommending that Pre-K–12 school and recreational youth sports be postponed until at least Jan. 1, 2021.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Education made the recommendation in a news release Thursday. The release elaborates on and clarifies earlier comments made by Governor Tom Wolf at the end of a news conference Thursday.

The departments called the guidance a strong recommendation, not an order or mandate. School administrators and locally elected school boards should make decisions on sports, according to the release.

The recommendation does not apply to collegiate and professional sports, according to the release.

The recommendation applies to team and individual, school and non-school recreational youth sports, and includes competitions, intramural play and scrimmages. The recommendation says people should continue conditioning, drills and other training activities on an individual basis.

The state's gathering limits are staying the same. No more than 25 people may gather indoors, and no more than 250 people can gather outdoors, according to the release.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association said in a Twitter post that the organization's board of directors will meet Friday afternoon to review the recommendation. The PIAA said it would have an official statement Friday afternoon.

"You feel bad for the kids more than anything,” said Jeff Braido, head football coach for Easton Area High School.

Braido said after a lost spring sports season and months of Zoom workouts, his players were excited to get back on the field doing small group practices. He said the governor's announcement was a big blow but that the health and safety of everyone is a priority.

"It was always a possibility that it was inevitably going to happen this way but I think a lot of people are still, and maybe still, holding out hope. If you're going to send kids to school, which we're all doing, I'm not sure why there is a need right now at this point to cancel sports,” Braido said.

The governor's announcement has drawn criticism from some Republican lawmakers. House Republicans issued a statement that said in part "Gov. Wolf is completely off the rails...the PIAA paved the way for sports to safely resume...that is devastating for student athletes, parents, and communities.”

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