WINDSOR TERRACE — The superintendents of schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn and Archdiocese of New York, supporting the Catholic High School Sports Athletic Association (CHSAA), are appealing to the city to allow “high-risk sports to commence immediately.”
The CHSAA has made numerous unsuccessful requests for approval from the city to resume high-risk sports season activities. Now, the dioceses have requested that the guidelines be fast-tracked with an accelerated timeline.
On Jan. 27, the state Department of Health (DOH) announced high-risk sports (basketball, contact lacrosse, competitive cheerleading, football, ice hockey, volleyball, and wrestling) could resume on Feb. 1 with permission from local health authorities.
More than a month later, on March 8, the city DOH publicly stated that outdoor competitive play for high-risk sports could resume in New York City in mid-April. Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties already received clearance from their local county health departments to resume high-risk sports programs by February 11.
The city noted that the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) would begin phasing in strength and conditioning after city high schools reopen for in-person learning on March 22. Competitions will then resume in mid-April.
Following this timetable announcement for the PSAL, the dioceses’ superintendents wrote in support of the CHSAA to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Dr. David Chokshi, commissioner of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“When setting guidelines, the Association should not be grouped with the PSAL,” wrote Dr. Thomas Chadzutko and Michael Deegan, Superintendents of Schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn and Archdiocese respectively, in a letter dated March 11. “Since many public schools have not opened, it has prevented its student-athletes from undergoing the necessary conditioning and strength training that CHSAA student-athletes have already completed.”
They continued, “To mandate that the CHSAA conform to standards and timeframes issued by the Department of Education for PSAL teams is both without rational basis and discriminatory against Catholic school students.”
Brooklyn/Queens CHSAA Executive Director Dominick Vulpis added that the city’s announcement does not consider what Catholic high school sports teams have been able to accomplish since playing in the fall.
“Because our teams have been playing low and moderate-risk sports all year long — unlike the PSAL — we’re ready,” he said. “That’s the difference, and that’s the difference that the Department of Health is not recognizing.”
Larry Medina, athletic director at Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary, reiterated that the delays have caused a domino effect.
“It leaves the kids in limbo. They don’t know which direction to go,” Medina said in reference to student-athletes who play multiple sports throughout the year. “I told the coaches we have to work holistically right now and make this like one big athletic group to keep these kids in shape and ready to go at any time.”
Medina further explained, “And, at the same time, we have to be willing to give and take a little bit because everything’s in a state of flux. Some kids may have to go to track practice one day and basketball another day.”
Alison Scalice, the girls’ lacrosse coach at Archbishop Molloy High School, said being off the field since last year has impacted the majority of her team because the athletes are first-time players.
“The girls are not on club teams like a lot of the other Long Island girls are. They only play when we play,” Scalice said, noting that her roster is usually made up of about 25 student-athletes every year. “I think we’re going to be set back a little bit, but the girls are super eager to get back on the field. They ask me every day when we’re going to start.”
Senior Alexandra Tarul, who plays on the girls’ varsity basketball team for St. John’s Prep, has already committed to play for Fordham University next year. However, she said she feels anxious about possibly playing at a different performance level next year compared to her future teammates.
“You don’t have that routine, and you also don’t have that motivation factor,” Tarul said. “I’ve been struggling a lot.”