By Emily Drooby
The adrenaline rush before a play and the joy of winning the big game are milestone moments in a kid’s life. In New York City, those moments are being threatened.
“All we’ve been pushing for is to play football and that’s all we want to do at this point. We’re not asking for much,” student athlete Charles Torres told Currents News. “We just want to play football.”
But he and his teammates at Xaverian High School can’t.
NYC’s Department of Heath hasn’t approved high risk sports at Catholic schools, despite consistent requests from school and athletic officials. Football, basketball, cheerleading and other sports fall into that category.
Starting on February 1, the State of New York gave local departments of health the right to decide if and when high risk sports could reopen.
Dominick Vulpis is the Executive Director of the Catholic High School Sports Athletic Association in Brooklyn/Queens. He said after hearing about the February 1 deadline, they immediately sent their proposal to the city, but received nothing back.
“We followed rules and regulations, we are ready to go…but to this date, nothing yet,” he said.
After over a month of radio silence, both the Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of New York and Diocese of Brooklyn got involved, sending a joint letter to the Department of Heath(DOH) and the mayor, but still nothing.
“There’s not even the decency or the respect to respond,” said Thomas Chadzutko, Superintendent of Schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn. “It’s infuriating, it’s a strong word but it’s disrespectful and infuriating.”
While NYC public schools have been flip-flopping between open and closed, The Diocese of Brooklyn’s schools have been open consistently all year.
Adding to the frustration, schools in other areas like Long Island and Westchester have already received permission from their departments of health back in February, and have been playing since.
As Xaverian High School’s athletic director Anthony Mancusi explained, “To see other teams in our league be able to compete is very, very frustrating, because we have the same protocols in place that they have.”
“So, hearing that other kids get to play and we can’t, it’s pretty much unfair,” student athlete Charles added.
Some students are upset at missing their last chance to play. Others, worried about future college scholarships.
Now, school programs like Xavarian are begging the DOH for a chance.
“Give us an opportunity to show you that this is something we can do safely,” Anthony said.
Right now teams can hold practices, as long as they’re no-contact.
The DOH has mid-April highlighted as the estimated start date for high risk sports. However, different sports have a mandatory amount of practices students have to have before games. That rule would push the first games to early May, right before the end of the year and while students are preparing for their final exams.
Catholic school and athletic leaders are pleading with the DOH to approve them sooner, hoping to give kids some semblance of normalcy by the end of the year.