Diocesan News

No Word Yet on Playing High-Risk High School Sports in NYC

Jenn Roveto, assistant coach of the girls varsity soccer team at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, N.Y., sprays disinfectant on soccer balls following practice Sept. 21, 2020. The workout occurred on the first day high school sports were permitted to resume in New York State amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

WINDSOR TERRACE — Local Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) schools are feeling frustrated with the lack of communication from city officials as to if high-risk sports can be played for the remainder of the academic year.

The State Department of Health (DOH) announced on Jan. 22 that high-risk sports could resume Feb. 1 — but the final decision still needs to be made by city health authorities.

“Participants in higher-risk sports and recreation activities may partake in individual or distanced group training and organized no/low-contact group training and, further, may partake in other types of play, including competitions and tournaments, only as permitted by the respective local health authorities (i.e. county health departments),” the interim guidance read.

The CHSAA — which consists of Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of New York as well as Long Island, Westchester and Buffalo — conducted fall and winter sports seasons this year, following the State DOH’s guidance for low and moderate-risk sports.

“It is understood that the [city-based] Public School Athletic League (PSAL) is not playing any sports, but this should not impact our student-athletes or schools,” said Brooklyn/Queens CHSAA Executive Director Dominick Vulpis. “It is their choice not to play. Our choice is to continue to play.”

When Nov. 30, 2020 was declared the official start date for low- and moderate-risk sports, local Catholic high schools resumed soccer and cross country running for the fall. Currently, high schools are running outdoor track in the winter season. Bowling teams have played during both the fall and winter seasons. High-risk sports that are currently in question for CHSAA, according to Vulpis, are basketball, wrestling, and competitive cheerleading.

Only one case of COVID-19 has been reported within the CHSAA since the fall.

Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties have received clearance from their respective local county health departments to resume high-risk sports programs. Because New York City has not made a decision, Vulpis has been pushing for answers and asking for equity and transparency since the end of January — writing letters to Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi on Jan. 25 and Feb. 5. Vulpis said he had yet to receive an answer from the DOH as of Feb. 11 but was notified that he had been given a case number.

“The CHSAA is seeking the same opportunities for its student-athletes as the surrounding counties and an answer to the guidance from our local NYC DOH,” Vulpis wrote in his Feb. 5 letter.

Because sports seasons are typically defined and run on schedules, an announcement is imperative in knowing how the rest of the academic year will look for high school student-athletes. For example, if a student-athlete plays two sports, such as football and basketball, their seasons could infringe upon one another.

Another factor, Vulpis noted, is whether the state will move forward with holding the Regents examinations on their tentative dates this June. Provided it is deemed safe for the exams to be administered in school buildings across the state, the examination period is scheduled to take place June 2, as well as June 15 to 25.

“If the Regents are given, then all play has to stop before they take place. But, if there are no Regents, maybe we can extend sports until the end of June,” Vulpis explained. “It becomes a domino effect.”

He further added, “Regardless of the decision that is made, it is vital that we communicate that decision to our parents and student-athletes in our communities. As educators, we are all aware of the social, emotional stress that continues to be placed upon students during the pandemic.”

The Tablet reached out to the Mayor’s Press Office, asking when a decision would be announced and did not receive a response by the time of publication.