PSAL All-Access Brings Athletes to Stuyvesant
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At Stuyvesant, students have access to 42 sports teams, with 22 out of 25 sports offered by the PSAL. However, few New York City public school students are this fortunate. Many schools only possess a few sports teams because of low athletic budgets or a lack of adequate practice space. In the fall of 2022, the PSAL started the PSAL All-Access program to address the problem of opportunity inequality. This spring, Stuyvesant is seeing the effects of the program.
The goal of the All-Access program is to “increase access to PSAL programming for schools that have traditionally been underserved.” It has four parts: New Access, Shared Access, New Team Creation, and Individual Access, with Individual Access being the only one implemented in Stuyvesant. New Access gives schools with no PSAL programming the chance to host two new teams of their choice. Shared Access creates Shared Access programs to combine smaller schools into larger athletic programs, providing students with access to more sports. New Team Creation funds schools with a low number of teams so that they may increase their offering to at least one team per gender for each of the three PSAL seasons.
Individual Access provides the opportunity for students to play PSAL sports that their school does not offer, first instituted citywide this spring 2023 season. If a student does not have access to a specific sport at their school, they can join another school’s team for that sport. Stuyvesant athletic director Peter Bologna said, “It’s a great idea in a few facets. One: it promotes athletics throughout the whole city. Two: it could help Stuyvesant athletically, if the person is an exceptionally good athlete.” As a school with a multitude of sports teams––many more than most schools––the Individual Access solution is having an immediate impact on Stuyvesant’s spring sports.
Four Stuyvesant teams currently have All-Access students on their rosters: boys’ lacrosse, girls’ lacrosse, coed golf, and coed cricket. This season, boys’ lacrosse has two All-Access players. Senior and boys’ lacrosse captain Derek Zang said, “The program has been working out pretty well so far.” Since Stuyvesant teams vary in skill level—often seeing many first-time players––skillful athletes from other schools can significantly elevate a team’s capability. Not only do they contribute as players but also as exemplars for newer teammates. Zang appreciates this, and he said that the new athletes “are two very experienced defenders who are teaching the new kids some footwork, stick skills, etcetera. There are a lot of new players this year, so I’m grateful for that.”
When looking at the citywide effects of this program, one would expect to see a general increase in the caliber of PSAL competition. As a broader range of students gains the opportunity to play on PSAL teams, the quality of the athletes and teams should match that growth. In particular, few PSAL teams exist for sports that require large practice areas and/or ample equipment, such as football, lacrosse, and swimming. Luckily, Stuyvesant has one of the only football teams in Manhattan. With the Individual Access program, there is a much larger pool of students eligible for selection, meaning the Stuyvesant football team will likely improve.
However, there are some potential obstacles and downsides to the policy. Logistically, it is much harder to coordinate practices, travel, and academic eligibility when players attend different schools. Bologna said, “I have a few questions about who checks the grades because I only have access to Stuyvesant. I have to find out who does that. Do they get certified? Do I need a copy? And getting the kids in the building, security-wise, it’s a little extra work.” For instance, Stuyvesant’s varsity baseball team, the Peglegs, had an All-Access player on the team for preseason practices. The coach needed to personally help the athlete through security every day for practice because he didn’t have a Stuyvesant student ID. This adds responsibility to the coaching staff, requiring greater team coordination. It also raises the question: must coaches be required to judge all athletes equally, regardless of their school of enrollment? If it is an added burden to have a student from a different school on one’s team, there is nothing preventing a coach from cutting this student in favor of a less talented athlete from the host school. In fact, many coaches may favor students from the host school, whether for sentimental or logistical reasons.
Another complication is the ambiguity regarding which school student-athletes can try out for. Bologna said, “Students are assigned to another school (host school) in the district or in the borough to try out and participate.” Though the choice is not up to the student, how the school is assigned remains unclear. Adrian Veto, a junior on the varsity baseball team, has this concern and said, “I don’t love the rule. I do think it’s good for people who are at smaller schools to be able to participate in athletics. I just think there should be more rules in place for how teams are chosen so it’s harder to assemble a superteam.”
Though there may be some complications to be worked out, the institution of the All-Access program will greatly increase the athletic opportunities for many students at smaller or lower-access schools. “I think in the long run, it will be well worth it,” Bologna said. The policy’s background states, “While there are schools in New York City with over 40 athletic teams, there are also schools that have historically had access to zero PSAL teams or minimal access, as defined by having less than six teams.” As Stuyvesant welcomes student-athletes into its teams, the school gets to be a major part of this historical program.