High school athletes still sitting on the sidelines

Local News
High school sports

An empty football scoreboard at Fort Hamilton High School, Feb. 25, 2021.

Athletes all over the city are still sitting on the sidelines as they wait for a decision from Mayor Bill de Blasio on the fate high school sports.

But as the clock ticks down on the season, law makers are demanding answers.

Gabriel Zaghari and his friends from the Fort Hamilton High School JV and varsity football teams still gather on their home field to toss the ball around.

But they haven’t been able to play organized games or practice as a team for more than a year.

“It’s very pretty rough, you know, football has been like a big part of my life since joining the team. It gives me a chance to express myself and I’ve made plenty of friends with it. And it’s been a bummer too,” Zaghari said.

For seniors like Anthony Saade, not playing could have a serious impact on his college career.

“I wasn’t able to get many college looks and I know a lot of other people weren’t able to get many college looks in that senior year when you make commitments to college,” Saade said.

Last month, Gov. Cuomo cleared the way for “high-risk” sports to resume around the state. The final plan however was left up to local governments.

Now lawmakers are calling on the mayor to give students and parents an answer.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes wrote a letter to the mayor’s office calling on the departments of health and education to come up with a plan to get the kids back on the field.

“There is no justification for it,” Gounardes said. “There was just no answer for it and what I tell these neighbors when I tell these, these folks in my neighborhood is that look, we’re going to do everything we can to try to get answers for you from the people who are empowered to make this decision.”

The Public Schools Athletic League, where these athletes play, isn’t the only league impacted by the lack of a decision.

The Catholic High Schools Athletic Association is also waiting on a plan to resume play.

Their seasons were supposed to start on March 1, but at this point, that’s impossible.

Meanwhile, teams they normally compete against in Westchester and on Long Island are ready to resume play.

“Our student athletes are hurting,” said CHSAA Executive Director Dominick Vulpis. “They need you, they need help out there, for their social, emotional, intellectual, physical needs.”

Gounardes said he and the lawmakers who wrote a letter to the Mayor have a meeting scheduled for March 10. The CHSAA is calling on City Council to hold an emergency hearing of the Health Committee to issue a decision.

Some parents are now considering running their own leagues to get the kids playing again, but if that happens, lawmakers are worried many students who can’t afford to participate will be left out.

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