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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Hardin County Schools will temporarily suspend winter sports practice and competition because of COVID-19.

In a Tuesday news release, the district says the suspension will begin immediately and continue until at least Dec. 1 with no competition scheduled on Dec. 7. HCS will make a decision on whether to lift the suspension after that date, according to the release.

Hardin County Schools Spokesperson John Wright said the decision was not made lightly.

"It's very hard. And not just because it's sports, but because it's an opportunity for students to succeed beyond the classroom," he told WDRB on Tuesday. 

"School is more than lessons and books and now Google Meets and Zoom meetings and things like that. It's more than that. It's those opportunities to network, to get to know your fellow students and other teachers and coaches and things like that," said Wright.

Winter sports include archery, high school and middle school basketball, high school bowling, cheerleading, swimming and wrestling. High school football will continue practice and postseason play "under strict guidelines provided by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association," according to the district.

"The number of COVID-19 positive tests continues to increase in our community,” HCS Superintendent Teresa Morgan said in a statement. “We feel that this decision is in the best interest of our student-athletes, our coaches and our families."

Central Hardin boys' basketball coach Matt Nickell held a virtual meeting with this team Tuesday to the discuss the news. He said the team's first game was supposed to be just one week away.

“We do have only one senior but we do have a mature group of guys but I feel like they’re going to handle it okay. Obviously they’re going to be upset," he said.

Nickell said his team and other athletes will find ways to exercise and stay physically fit during this time and he's more concerned about their mental health. 

“What we’re going through hits kids differently and it’s going to affect some of their mental state and as coaches it’s our job to make sure that we just try to keep the kids positive and control the controllables right now," he said.  “I have some natural born leaders on our team and they’re not having any opportunities to lead anybody during the day and that’s hard, it’s hard to see that happening.” 

Nickell said he's optimistic and hopeful that Hardin County teams will get to play winter sports this season. 

As of Monday, Hardin County's COVID-19 incidence rate was one of the highest in Kentucky with 71.1 new cases per 100,000 residents per day based on a seven-day rolling average.

Like most counties throughout the state, Hardin County remains in the "red zone" with a COVID-19 incidence rate above 25 new daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents. 

Hardin County Schools transitioned to distance learning Nov. 2 and will continue through at least the Thanksgiving holiday. The district has reported three new COVID-19 cases among students and four new cases among staff so far this week, with 12 employees currently quarantined, according to data published by the state.

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