PSAL Frees: Thoughts from Students, Athletes, and Administration

Quotes from both sides of the topic of PSAL physical education free periods for athletes.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The School Leadership Team (a committee made up of administration, teachers, parents, and students) recently voted against a Student Union proposal to implement physical education (or PSAL) frees. PSAL frees would have given athletes a free period in place of their regularly-scheduled physical education class. The Spectator asked the student body, teachers, and the administration about their thoughts on the matter. This is what they said.

* This quote was taken from a Google Questionnaire form.

“My reaction to the decision is really one of disappointment. I’ve met for probably 10 or more hours with either Bologna, Moran, or Contreras, and I’ve really made the effort to make every possible compromise, so much so that some other people in the [Student Union] (SU) thought I’d compromised too much. I gave up everything we could’ve possibly given up, and Mr. Contreras said to me just before the meeting a couple days before that ‘compromise is the way to go and that we’d all need to work together to do this.’” And I feel I’ve done that for months. It’s disappointing to me that the other side seems totally against compromise and [some] people haven’t [even] read the proposal. Some of the objections at the SLT meeting showed they just had no knowledge of what was in it.” —Baird Johnson, junior and PSAL athlete

“Each athlete is actually considered a ‘student-athlete’—academics always come first, and physical education is a part of the academia, so that comes first before athletics. Same thing [applies] for when I coach my players: schoolwork comes first. If they have to make up a test, or if they have to make up a quiz, or if they have to make up classes for whatever reason, or they have to do something after school for their class, that comes before our games and practices. Schoolwork is more important than anything.” —Vincent Miller, physical education teacher and coach

“I believe that Stuyvesant has one of the most unique and rigorous physical education programs in New York City. I am very proud of the variety of classes we offer, and there is a big difference between physical fitness, athletics, and physical education. I recognize that student-athletes commit a tremendous amount of time to their sport, but I don't believe that we should offset that workload by taking away physical education and robbing students of a potentially life-long educational experience. Instead, I support the student-athletes that spoke in the SLT meeting about homework guidelines and making sure that students in need are receiving the support they need to succeed.” —Brian Moran, Assistant Principal for Security/Health and Physical Education

“I think that it’s really easy to think that physical education is just exercise, and I totally understand athletes not thinking that they gain anything from physical education, but I think it would be a mistake to marginalize the effect of having a different sort of education in your day. I personally believe that that’s really valuable for being a healthy person.” —Talia Kirshenbaum, senior and PSAL athlete

“I don’t think I argued against PSAL frees necessarily, but I argued, as Mr. Miller stated earlier, that the issue PSAL frees are trying to solve is more systemic and foundational within Stuy and how we function as a school.” —Ally Archer, senior and PSAL athlete

“I think not enough attention is given to extracurriculars at Stuyvesant, but [this applies] especially [to] sports. Especially in this day and age, it’s become increasingly important to find the time at an early age to develop healthy habits, and a big part of that is exercise. Granting PSAL frees not only recognizes and gives more respect to Stuyvesant’s athletics, but [also] allows our students to better represent our school in PSAL competitions. As well as encouraging more students to partake in athletics, it grants athletes more time obviously to complete their work or perhaps to just rest in school.” —Mitchell Leung, senior and PSAL athlete*

“The debate over PSAL frees is rooted in the larger question of how Stuyvesant students can play on a sports team, do well in school, and stay physically and mentally healthy (sleep is a notable factor). PSAL frees make logical sense in all of the manners laid out by the Student Union, and they are the most efficient means through which to improve the health and academic and athletic performance of Stuyvesant students.” —Julian Giordano, sophomore*

“PSAL frees should be a thing. As an athlete, I already have a lot of the skills necessary to perform at a pretty decent level in most sports regardless of my experience in them. As such, much of the time spent in gym class learning the very basics of how to play basketball, how to lift weights, etc. is wasted time. If the same issue happened in math class, I’d simply be placed in a more advanced class that more suited my skill level. However, no such thing exists for PE. Similarly, when I’m in season, I have considerably less time to do work. I often get home after 8:00 p.m., and by the time I’ve showered and eaten, it can be close to 10:00 p.m. Many of my teachers over the past four years have not honored the time limits for homework, so there are times where I’m up past 2:00 a.m. doing homework not because of procrastination but because of time commitments. It’s extremely exhausting to be working hard from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. That’s 18 hours straight. A PSAL free would be a step in the right direction for allowing student athletes to succeed in sports and keep up the reputation of Stuyvesant as a school that succeeds in almost everything it does and maintain a difficult and advanced course load at the same time.” —Malcolm Hubbell, senior and PSAL athlete*

“PSAL frees would be great for athletes, but [PSAl frees] hurt the rest of the student body. If implemented, it would follow that there would be fewer PE classes to accommodate for the fewer students required to take PE. Fewer classes means less flexibility when making schedule changes. No one wants their schedule to be confined around a specific PE class, yet this may have been the reality for students had PSAL frees been implemented. Additionally, many students participate in non-PSAL extracurriculars, so it does not make sense that these students “need” the PSAL free to get their work done. Regardless of our extracurricular, we all have work to do and extracurriculars to prioritize.” —Carter Ley, sophomore*