NEW YORK — On a field at Randall’s Island, Shelby Ramos finally got a chance to just play. More than a year after the pandemic shut down the Public Schools Athletic League, she and other student athletes around the city are returning to competition this week.
“Being able to be back with my team is like home for me, because sports is something that is very part of me since I was very little. And this team is more like family,” Shelby said.
Shelby is a co-captain of the East Harlem Pride girl’s soccer team, a squad that brings together students from five small neighborhood high schools.
“Not being able to play with them and not being able to have another season was kind of devastating to me,” she said.
Goaltender and co-captain Naomi Rose said she’s cherishing every moment of her abbreviated senior season, after a bleak pandemic year left her team unable to be on the field.
“For me, it was actually kind of depressing, because I play three sports actually, I play soccer, basketball and flag football,” Naomi said. “So I kind of depended on this for, you know, my mental health, because it’s always kept me busy with something to do.”
For many of the students, in addition to a mental and physical outlet, sports is part of their identity.
“Everybody sort of has their own self-image of themselves. And I think being able to like, get back to how it is like normally, it sort of feels like you’re getting back in touch with yourself as well,” teammate Medina Haque said.
Students wear masks even during play. They get their temperatures checked before practice, and games won’t have spectators. But for students like boy’s soccer co-captain Kevin Avila, the precautions are worth it.
“It’s just fun interacting with people, and you know, it just feels like everything’s going back to normal, which is what I’ve been looking for for the last year or so,” he said.
Athletic Director Suzy Ort said the season feels like an unexpected gift for coaches and players who had resigned themselves to another season without taking the field.
“Watching our two teams practice, it’s just pure joy. You know, kids are doing what they love,” she said.
Over 50,000 NYC students are involved in the Public School Athletic League, which is getting back into action after over a year of COVID restrictions. Suzy Ort, assistant principal of Park East High School and athletic director of East Harlem Pride joins us on #MorningsOn1 pic.twitter.com/58w11UecKR— Spectrum News NY1 (@NY1) May 7, 2021