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The sound of basketballs bouncing, water splashing and pucks hitting the glass could be heard all over Minnesota again Monday, with high school winter sports teams cleared for their first practices.

Gov. Tim Walz put youth sports on a four-week pause in November because of the pandemic and later extended that moratorium.

The wait through the holidays for Jan. 4 left plenty of time for soul searching for the athletes. A Minneapolis girls' hockey player found new hobbies. An Edina boys' swimmer took advantage of the extra time to heal injuries. And a Richfield boys' basketball player developed a newfound appreciation for the littlest things.

All were excited to get back to practice, knowing competition against other teams can start Jan. 14.