St. Francis Preparatory School junior Michael Solimando is busy hitting the books, but he still can’t hit the gridiron. His school’s football season is in limbo because of the pandemic.
“I’ve been playing football my whole life. Every winter, every summer I train in football for the upcoming year, and this whole year has been different,“ Solimando told NY1.
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently lifted a statewide ban on higher-risk high school sports like football, basketball and volleyball, which had been sidelined because of the pandemic. He left it up to local officials to allow games and matches to resume, but the city still has not given the Catholic schools permission to proceed.
At a news conference Thursday, educators, student athletes and administrators representing Catholic schools in all five boroughs vented their frustration.
The Catholic High School Athletic Association said it has repeatedly reached out to the city Health Department, but has not gotten a response. Now, the group is seeking an emergency City Council meeting to make their case.
“There is no reason for not saying, ‘You’re good to go,’ or, ‘This is the reason you can’t,’” said Ed Bolan, a member of the Chairperson Principals Committee (CHSAA). “And the reason we can’t has to be very specific.”
No sports have been played in public schools since March, but last spring Catholic schools did play low-risk sports like soccer, tennis and track. They say their plan to resume high-risk sports — including a season of spring football — comes with safety protocols. They note these sports have resumed across the state, including in nearby Nassau and Westchester Counties.
“It is very difficult for us to explain to our parents and student athletes why people a couple miles away are able to play and we are not,” said Denise Hillig, the president of CHSAA.
They also point out sports are not just important for a student's physical health, but also mental health, especially during the pandemic.
“I think from a young age we learned that sports are a way to clear our minds by doing something we love and by building a community with those we compete with,” explained Fordham Prep student athlete Sean Miller.
Mayor Bill de Blasio recently said he would make an announcement soon.
And yet, there’s not much time. Many of these sports are supposed to start their seasons Monday.