Students Fight for Winter Sports at Pierson

Fionnuala (Finn) Goodale, Local News

This winter, despite both Governor Cuomo and Suffolk County allowing high-risk sports to occur, the Sag Harbor School District made the hard decision to not allow these sports at Pierson. So far this year, the school has put a lot of effort into keeping our students safe during COVID-19 and probably felt that sports may have been too much of a risk. Not all other schools wear masks while they play, and mixing with other school districts poses an extra threat of being exposed. The CDC recommends that for contact and high-intensity sports, staying outside is the best. In the case of basketball, and other winter sports, this isn’t really possible due to the cold temperatures we have here on Long Island. Therefore, while the decision to not participate in winter sports is disappointing, the school is doing their best to keep not only students safe, but also the whole community. 

On January 26, Pierson High School senior Hudson Brindle started a petition in response to the district’s decision about winter sports directed at Mr. Jeff Nichols, the Superintendent of Schools in Sag Harbor. As of Wednesday, February 4, the petition has 642 signatures from many different groups of people. Many students, athletes, parents, and various other community members have come together to show their support for this cause. 

In the comments of the petition, there are many different opinions, ideas, and inputs. Gretel French commented, “As an educator and a former Pierson- Sl Field Hockey and Basketball alumnus, the outlet will provide the kids with the social and emotional outlet that is much needed these days.” Bringing in the topic of giving athletes an outlet is important in this situation, seeing as COVID has taken away many other options for students. Lorraine Hallick mentioned a similar idea in her comment: “Social and mental student health are of utmost importance.” Most people recognized the fact that this is an outlet for most kids, and a necessary one at that. Especially in the current times, students don’t have any other social options and have no sense of the school spirit and community that would usually surround them during a regular year. 

When I spoke with Hudson Brindle, who took the initiative to start this petition, he said, “Sports have always been about keeping people, specifically kids, from doing bad things and things they shouldn’t be doing.” For many students, sports are the motivation to keep their grades up and keep them out of trouble. With no athletic opportunities, much of this motivation and positive encouragement from teammates and coaches is lost. Brindle also said, “Right now I think it’s very important because you have all these kids who would be socializing and going out, and having a productive and very safe outlet. [School sports] will decrease the chance of these kids going out and socializing in an unsafe manner.” He brings up an important point: if athletes needed to stay safe and limit their social circles in order to play sports, it would greatly decrease their risk of contracting COVID or passing it onto other susceptible members of the community. 

A petition like this may not seem like a big deal to some people, but it is one of the only ways for students and athletes to have their voice heard. Many feel as though their opinions and ideas aren’t being considered when decisions are made, so making a petition like this helps to get the point across and make it clear that many people are in opposition to the choice that high-risk sports were not allowed to happen at Pierson. 

Students recently took another approach to have their voices heard after the petition did not give them the results they desired. On Tuesday, February 10th, a group of students staged a walkout in protest of the decision to not allow sports to be played. At around 10 in the morning, somewhere near 25 students left their class to make their opinions clear. Prior to this on Tuesday morning, Mr. Jeff Nichols came over the loudspeaker and let the students know he was aware of the walkout, and tried to give them guidelines. He said they should stay outside for only about 10 minutes, stay socially distanced, and behave in respectful manners. When the students got outside to the hill, Mr. Nichols was there as well. He informed the students that if they left school for the rest of the day, he would need to contact their parents. Nonetheless, about 15 or so students left school grounds in order to make their voices heard. 

Through these means, students communicated their message loud and clear to the school: they were disappointed with the district’s decision to not play high-risk winter sports.