I’ve never been a huge fan of the way we do varsity sports, and I say this as a guy that coached for a number of years. In NYC, we’re governed by the Public School Athletic League or PSAL. Practice time and lack of facilities make teaching difficult, but my biggest problem is the fact that most teams cut, that is, if you’re not in the top “n,” you’re out. So, if our basketball team has, let’s say 15 kids on it, they get exclusive use of the gym every afternoon during basketball season and no one else can receive coaching or be part of the team.
I coached Stuyvesant’s fencing team for a bunch of years and I think I did a pretty good job. We won our share of city titles but while most coaches ran teams in a traditional way I never cut anyone – we might have over thirty people in a tiny room trying to learn how to fence.
I can be competitive and we often won but high school should be about exposing kids to new experiences and the exclusiveness of competitive sports seems to be contrary to this.
Thats why I love Stuy’s rowing club. I’ve been involved in the program for about five years now. Prior to that many of my CS students were involved and they kept saying “Z - you’ve got to check out the rowing club.” During good weather, every Wednesday, we go up to the village community boathouse at Pier 40 and row Whitehall Gigs - old school wooden boats - 4 oars and a coxswain. We’ve rowed up to the Intrepid and down to the Statue of Liberty.
It’s a great activity and everyone’s welcome. It’s an athletic, team building activity and very different from what our kids normally do. It’s an opportunity for our non-competitive kids to be involved in a great athletic activity.
For our competitive kids, they can enter our races. Everyone can take part in local races (cancelled this year due to Sandy) and we usually send our top crew and a younger crew to events outside the city. Just two weeks ago, Stuyvesant sent two crews up to Hull, MA to take part in The Icebreaker Northeast Regional Youth Rowning Championships. Our kids got to meet and compete with kids from all over the northeast.
If you’re wondering about how we do with the non-cut format - both of our boats won their respective divisions (first fours, the top division, and second fours). A mixed crew with Stuy alumi won the first sixes division. And yes, that’s Batya in the picture - she coxed our first fours.
It would be great if kids had more athletic opportunities like this.
Next post – how this relates to computer science.