We Need PSAL Sports Back

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Issue 5, Volume 111

By Sam Levine 

As I walk down the West Side Highway from Chelsea Piers down to Stuyvesant, past all of the gold leaves falling from the trees, I see families out and about for walks, their faces covered with masks. I pass Chelsea ballfields, Chelsea Park, Chelsea Piers, Pier 40, Pier 46, and the ballfields in Battery Park. What is the one thing that all these places have in common? There are sports being played at every one of them.

Greenwich Village Little League is playing fall ball from ages four to 17. Teams practice soccer all around Pier 40. I can’t watch these things without stopping to wonder where PSAL sports have been all fall.

I spent my summer and fall playing travel baseball tournaments every weekend. We played in five different states along the Northeast across more than four months, and not a single COVID-19 case has been reported among any of the teams. Not one! All it took was a few modifications—the umpires stood behind the pitcher's mound, players socially distanced when not on the field—and we could play ball. I don’t understand why the PSAL can’t do the same.

Fall sports are played almost entirely outside (with some notable exceptions, like volleyball), which would negate the issue of a lack of indoor space to practice and play. If schools have been deemed safe enough for students to enter, then it seems fair that outdoor, somewhat socially distanced sports should be safe enough to play too. If I could play baseball in five different states the entire summer COVID-free, and youth leagues (which are much larger in scale than PSAL) can start up again in the city, then PSAL should be able to follow suit and allow for some normalcy to return to our lives with sports.

It’s not just for the fun of playing that some people need it though. Many athletes are aspiring to play in college, and some maybe as professionals. These student athletes need sports to return if they want to play in college and beyond because it’s nearly impossible to get recruited when you’re not playing. Not only is it difficult when they’re not playing, but many other states and athletic leagues are playing, so colleges will look to those kids before NYC athletes when they are looking for potential recruits.

In addition, with most of us spending our days in front of a computer screen for five hours straight, sports can give us back something to look forward to in a time of otherwise monotony. Studies have shown that exercise can improve moods and better our mental health, and that’s something that a PSAL return would provide.

The PSAL has cited a lack of funds due to the city losing money as a reason for not returning soon. Normally, the money that the PSAL receives from the city would go toward paying coaches, paying referees, booking permits, etc. That would be a valid concern, except the league didn’t have a spring season last year, and they aren’t having a fall season now. So what happened to all the money that the PSAL is saving from not playing those two entire seasons? That surplus money should be used to go into this fall and winter’s seasons—at least until the city has enough money to fund it as usual.

I understand why there may not be PSAL indoor sports in the winter because of the increased transmission of COVID-19 indoors. I wouldn’t advise that we play indoors for the time being, but this spring should certainly have had outdoor sports, albeit with some changes: the PSAL should be ready to start up sports by 2021. Look at all the other youth sports leagues playing around Stuyvesant. If the PSAL enforces some of their precautions, such as wearing masks on the bench and being socially distanced when not playing, as well as potential COVID tests once or twice a month, there’s no reason for the PSAL to not return in full by the spring. High schoolers around the city need sports back, and the PSAL should give us what we need.