Student athletes want to play ball, pols take mayor to task

March 1, 2021 Jaime DeJesus
Student athletes want to play ball, pols take mayor to task
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The kids want to play ball, and they, parents and supporters are using rallies, pressure from local politicians and other tactics to get back on the field after more than a year.

Currently, New York City is the only place in the state where school sports are still not allowed following the worst phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that at the present time, his priority is getting kids back into the classroom.

Recently, a group of Southern Brooklyn elected officials wrote a letter to de Blasio and outgoing School Chancellor Richard Carranza urging them to bring back higher-risk sports, spring season sports-league permits, the return of Public School Athletic League (PSAL) sports, and clear guidelines on how to bring them back safely to the neighborhood.

The letter was signed by State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Southwest Brooklyn-Gravesend-Marine Park), Assemblymember Jaime Williams (D-Canarsie-Mill Basin-Flatlands), Councilmember Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bath Beach) and State Sen. Roxanne Persaud (D-Mill Basin-Flatlands-East New York-Sheepshead Bay). It highlighted the negative effect that not having these sports programs has had the kids’ mental well-being.

“We know that COVID-19 prevention is paramount and can be logistically difficult, but we have the scientific knowledge to offer this guidance and we owe it to our youth to do so as they continue to wait months for vaccine distribution to unfold,” read the letter, which was issue in mid-February.

They gave the example of the Suffolk County Health Department, which, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced municipalities could resume organized higher-risk sports, issued its own rules for resuming basketball, football, volleyball and wrestling. Suffolk County, in Eastern Long Island, also permitted outdoor sports teams to use public parks.

The officials asked de Blasio and Carranza and PSAL to come up with a plan with the assistance of the city Health, Education and Parks departments and share it with schools, coaches, athletes, and families as soon as possible.

Earlier in February, a rally with several student athletes was held outside Barclays Center demanding that sports return to schools.

“Team sports teach important lessons: how to work hard, collaborate and overcome adversity,” said Borough President Eric Adams at the rally. “We are robbing our students by not allowing them to play.  The science is clear. It’s time to reopen school sports in our city.

“Too many people who are making these decisions have never picked up a ball, never picked up a bat, never made a sprint, never exercised, never made a decision on how to play a good game. It’s time for us to listen to the people who understand the quality of our children, and they’re saying it loudly and clearly: let them play!” the borough president said.

The New York Post recently interviewed Nicole Bartholomew-Gordon, whose 10th grader plays football at New Utrecht High School.

Pre-pandemic, her son’s life was all about “school work, it was sports, it was a brotherhood, it was a team, that was his life,” she said.

“Without sports, we’re closing the window of opportunity for kids to get into academic institutions in college. In some cases, we’re permanently closing the opportunities,” George Lanese, co-founder of About U Outreach, the organization which organized the rally at Barclays and others elsewhere in the city, according to the Post.

About U Outreach, on the internet, describes itself as “a community service organization that provides academic instruction, physical conditioning, and social media marketing services to youth organizations ,high school ,and college students. The Company focuses on academic results, physical performance, and community building. We are committed to making a difference in the lives of our student athletes.”

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