2005-12-23 / Sports

Transit Strike Shuts Down H.S. Sports

By Elio Velez

Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue Station is one of the 469 train stations around the city to be closed. Photo by Miriam Rosenberg.
Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue Station is one of the 469 train stations around the city to be closed. Photo by Miriam Rosenberg. Last week, public and catholic high schools in Queens first felt the brunt of the citywide MTA transit strike.

On December 16, public high schools canceled any after school athletic events for those who are in the Department of Educations’ Region 5. It happened once again when Triboro Coach and Jamaica bus drivers walked off the job last Monday.

So when the Transport Workers Union Local 100 walked off the job, it confirmed what public and catholic schools needed to do about their scheduled athletic events.

For almost a week, any girls or boys’ varsity basketball, indoor track, hockey or swimming event has been canceled. As of press time, news of a reported agreement that will bring the TWU workers back to work will give PSAL and CHSAA officials the chance to reschedule games as soon as early January. More than 500 public and catholic school basketball games have been postponed, along with other after school activities.

School attendance in the Rockaways improved with each day the strike occurred though some students from Brooklyn or northern Queens, who attend Beach Channel High School, are not able to attend.

Those lost games means lost time on the court, and it doesn’t help coaches like Far Rockaway’s Les Sabbah.

Success has occurred so far as the Lady Seahorses varsity basketball team has a 6-1 record heading into the break. Though the team returns starters such as Shantee Goggins and Patrice McKenzie, the rest of the squad is either inexperienced or newcomers.

Though their scheduled game against division leader Van Buren was postponed last Wednesday, Sabbah says he needs the practice time to get his players prepared. “At our skill level, we need to practice every day. Most of the kids live near the school but they’re concerned overall of what’s going on.”

The team has to mainly rely on public transportation to attend games throughout Queens. Without funds to rent or purchase transportation to travel to other high schools, Far Rockaway is one of the many high schools that are affected by this strike.

“The kids have played hard and come in to the school during this and they’re having a nice season. It highlights the need for transportation for the students,” Sabbah said.

“I wonder if we are the only city in the United States that does not provide transportation for our high school athletic teams?”

There is a chance that some games might be rescheduled and played during the winter break, which starts on Monday. Beach Channel physical education teacher and Lady Dolphins basketball coach Victor Nazario is one proponent of that idea. His team, who currently has a 4-2 record, was supposed to travel to Cardozo High School last Wednesday before the game was postponed.

“It might be a better option for my kids. It’s one less worry for us. I only had a handful of my kids show up (last Tuesday). We’ll practice on Monday and throughout the winter break to prepare,” Nazario said.

But a number of factors may hamper those plans. Some high school basketball teams are scheduled to play in winter tournaments in and outside the city. Availbility of referees and transportation are other factors as well.

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