Catholic School Athletes Are Ready: Let Them Play

Several months ago, the return of professional sports provided a ray of hope that someday soon, we will move on from COVID-19 — once and for all.

Sports offered a much-needed distraction from the sadness, heartache, and anxiety brought on by the pandemic. At least for a few hours, we were able to forget about the number of cases, hospitalizations, intubations, and deaths caused by the novel coronavirus.

Pro sports returning safely was supposed to pave the way for local Catholic high school sports to resume safely as well. The sports deemed low-risk — like cross-country, track, bowling, tennis, soccer, and swimming — successfully began a few weeks into the school year.

However, high-risk sports — like football, volleyball, basketball, baseball, and softball — were put on hold by the state amid safety concerns. Once again, hope was restored in late February when the state issued guidance on how these high-risk sports could safely begin.

As we approach April, Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) sports still have not been given the green light to resume competitive play. Recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) could resume sports April 1 and continue interscholastic play into the summer.

These guidelines, however, were not extended to the CHSAA of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Archdiocese of New York.

CHSAA sports teams in Westchester and Long Island — schools that our diocesan teams compete against each season — have resumed play, while the two local dioceses continue to await a decision from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on what’s next.

Following unsuccessful attempts for an answer from the city, Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, the superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn, and Michael Deegan, the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of New York, recently sent a letter to Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi calling for guidelines to be issued in order for the CHSAA to resume high-risk competitive sports immediately.

In the letter, the superintendents state that their Catholic schools have been open for in-person learning while operating safely since the start of the school year — unlike the public high schools, which reopened for in-person learning on March 22.

“CHSAA student-athletes should not be prevented from competitive play because other school systems have been unable to open or condition their student-athletes,” the letter reads. “To do so would unfairly penalize these children and, in essence, punish them for following all guidelines to date.”

So far, the CHSAA has received word from the Health Department that guidelines are “forthcoming.” However, there has been no definitive timeframe of when these sports can start up again. The school year will be over before we know it, and these kids are simply looking for an opportunity to play the sports they love.

The Tablet stands with the superintendents to call for the city to approve guidelines for our local Catholic high schools to resume high-risk sports competition immediately. Sports are essential for students’ mental health, especially given the rigors of their past year in the classroom and through virtual learning.

Hopefully, the Health Department — a city agency that cares explicitly for all New Yorkers’ mental health — will see this too. Let them play!