The Public Schools Athletic League, known by the acronym PSAL, is an organization that promotes student athletics in the public schools of New York City. It provides and maintains a sports program for students enrolled in New York City public schools. The PSAL serves both boys and girls. PSAL holds competitions in a wide range of indoor and outdoor sports in Fall, Winter and Spring seasons.
The mission of the Public Schools Athletic league is to provide opportunities for educating students in physical fitness, character development and socialization skills through an athletic program that fosters teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship.
Middle College High School Athletics is affiliated with International High School and Robert F. Wagner High School located in Long Island City, NY. We offer participation in 12 sports during the school year. All students are required to hand in a parental permission slip and yearly physical to participate.
John Poon, Baseball CoachCongratulations John Poon & Panthers baseball on winning the PSAL B Division Sportsmanship Award for two straight years (2013-2014).
True Pioneers; Deaf Athletes Help Pave Path to Softball Championship Game
On June 4, 2017 at the College of Staten Island, a Queens’s team, Robert F. Wagner, was battling a nine-run deficit going into the bottom of the 7th inning down 23 to 14. The team never gave up. Their positive energy was undeniable. They battled and gave it their all but at the end, they were three runs short losing by a score of 23-20. Brooklyn’s Uncommon Charter High School were the C Division Champs. As with any contest, there was a winner and a loser, but the tone of the losing team was anything but defeated. There was a different vibe with this team; Robert F. Wagner was a different team altogether.
Coach Jeremiah Lundgren took on the team in 2008. For years, the team had losing records, many seasons finishing with few to no wins. Obviously, this season was extremely different. Wagner finished their regular season 11-1. They attended the Championship game with a full squad of more than 20 players. While watching the game I noticed what I thought were extra coaches standing in foul territory. Immediately, I realized that they were interpreters using sign language. I wasn’t sure who exactly they were translating for because it seemed that many of the players were signing at some point. This was something I’ve never seen before. In fact I have coached against Coach Lundgren years ago and had never recalled him having any deaf players. I assumed that he had a new program at his school. After the game, I had a chance to talk to him about his team.
Turns out, I was wrong. This was not a new program at the school. In fact, the program has been in existence for 20 plus years. I asked Coach Lundgren why I had never seen any players in the past use sign language. He said that although he advertised to the whole student body the deaf students were hesitant to come out for the team. It was not until one deaf player came out for the team three years earlier that sparked an interest of more deaf players to join. I was so interested in talking to the girls about their experiences. We set up a time to meet.
I had the pleasure of talking to the girls a bit before their Softball Awards party. I met with some of the deaf players; Aileen Modesto , Karolina Bednarczyk , Kiara Ognibene, Kathryn Romero, and non-deaf player and team Captain, Iruana Polanco.
Aileen was the first deaf player to join the team. Basketball was the first sport she played at the school and decided to continue with athletics later joining the softball program. Karolina was encouraged by staff and students to play after the school’s field day. Kiara had played sports growing up. She played on a travel team where her Grandmother acted as her interpreter. Katheryn was encouraged to play by Coach Lundgren in 10th grade. Although the girls all had different motivations for joining, they all agreed that seeing a deaf player already on the team was encouraging. Another benefit is that even the non-deaf players are familiar with American Sign Language as it is the only language taught at the school.
Karolina felt that it was hard playing at first. You are physically playing a sport but also looking at the translators and communicating with the non-deaf players. There was a lot going on, yet everyone adjusted quickly. Aileen spoke of the team developing codes to communicate to avoid misunderstandings. The deaf players also help teach the non-deaf players sign language. Coach Lungren also changed his style of coaching. The gestures he uses have become more physical and visual. Overall, it has added to another form of communication for the entire team, which makes everyone more successful.
The girls experience being on the softball team has been extremely positive. They want to play throughout high school and hope to continue to play in college. I’m definitely looking forward to watching what they do next season as most of the players are returning to play for Robert F. Wagner. Perhaps picking up some new players, maybe even some more deaf athletes.
I’m not sure if they realize how inspiring they are. They are showing that sports can be more inclusive of all types of abilities. Again, one deaf player came out for the team three years ago. Sparking an interest in other deaf players to join the following year. They are changing the way sports look in NYC. True pioneers for the PSAL softball program. I hope the rest of the city is paying attention.