A call for change in Section 1 athletics

A call for change in Section 1 athletics

Everyone has been affected in one way or another by this nation so deeply divided by a tremendous level of discourse. Unfortunately, the latest victim is the New York student-athlete. Championed by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) at the statewide level and Section 1 at the local level, the horribly flawed New York high school athletics system has left coaches, players, parents and fans shocked by the massive amount of office politics. The equivocating and mass confusion can have dramatic effects on the teams and players that they govern. Section 1 and the NYSPHSAA as a whole need to get their priorities in order, and remember that the athletes and the schools are what really matter, not petty disputes.

The first issue that desperately needs to be addressed is the distinction between Southern Westchester BOCES and Section 1. Currently, the executive director of Section 1 is also recognized as the director of interscholastic athletics at SW BOCES. It’s important to note the differences and similarities of these two organizations. While they both govern athletics in the southern Hudson Valley, SW BOCES covers regular season matchups, while  Section 1 rules over the postseason, which eventually feeds into the NYSPHSAA championship tournament. While this may not be such an issue with the athletics themselves, this does lead to dangerous monetary matters. SW BOCES receives millions in tax dollars per year, and they put a portion of that money into Section 1. This alone would be perfectly fine, except for the fact that there is no official arrangement between the two organizations. This means that significant sums of tax dollars (reportedly $5.9 million for the current year) are being funneled away from the public eye; away from public organizations into private entities, which are much more opaque, without so much as a contract drawn up specifying how the money is spent or how much is sent over. Although posing no threat to the actual athletics, this problem is major and real and must be properly dealt with before the section can once again be in good standing.

As well as the matter of money, there is also petty internal politics getting in the way of proper functioning of the organization. Look at the decision regarding the removal of the basketball championships from the Westchester County Center as an example. Surrounding that debacle, there was enormous distrust and even infighting between senior officials at the section and leaders in the athletic community in the lower Hudson Valley. Section 1 Executive Director Jennifer Simmons argued that the costs of holding the championships at the county center had simply become too high, regardless of the fact that Section 1 used the center on a rent-free basis. She pointed out that the section still had to pay for costs incurred in the stadium during the time that they were in control of it, which is an entirely valid point. The discussion is not who’s at fault for the loss of the county center, but it is why it happened.

It happened due to pettiness, on the part of both the county and the section. Athletics, especially high school athletics, hold a special place in the hearts of tens of thousands, if not more across, the lower Hudson Valley. The section and county have let minor disputes ruin that. This type of pettiness has no place in Section 1 or in local athletics, and it must be changed for everyone’s sake.

In a few days, former Pearl River Athletic Director Todd Santabarbara will take over for Jennifer Simmons at the helm of lower Hudson athletics. It is on his shoulders to make changes to help bring the athletics, without the controversy, back to student-athletes. The time has come for office politics and petty disputes between section and county officials to take a backseat, and for the players and their concerns to take the wheel.