A few days ago, a petition was posted asking the NYSPHSAA to bring back Sectional singlets for the 2013 state tournament. (In May, Sectional uniforms were eliminated for all sports in New York). As of 7 p.m. on Wednesday evening, over 815 people had signed that petition.
New York Wrestling News spoke to one of the people the petition is addressed to, Robert Zayas, the Executive Director of the NYSPHSAA, to understand his response to the petition and to get his input on what can be done for those looking to bring the singlets back.
New York Wrestling News (NYWN): I’m sure you are aware of the petition going on now to bring the Section singlets back. What is your reaction to that petition?
Robert Zayas (RZ): Yes, I am definitely aware. I appreciate the passion people have for the sport of wrestling here in New York. I have received several hundred e-mails as have members of my staff. Unfortunately, we don’t have a say in whether the singlets come back or not. The Executive Committee made the decision back in May and therefore any change will have to come from that committee.
NYWN: Who makes up the Executive Committee?
RZ: There are two representatives from each Section. If there will be a change, it will come from them. We really are a grassroots organization, which is bottom up, rather than top down. If the Sections come together and say that they want this change, it might be possible. But if it’s only a few Sections, it probably won’t happen.
NYWN: When is the next Executive Committee meeting?
RZ: The next meeting is January 29.
NYWN: Let’s take a step back. In May 2012, the uniform change was approved. The language from the meeting notes was “Approved the elimination of Section uniforms in all sports and therefore requiring athletes to wear their school uniforms at State Championships even if a sponsor provides them.” Why was that last part about the sponsors specifically added?
RZ: I think it was to make sure things are fair and consistent across all sports. Some sports have the ability to get a sponsor or sponsors to provide those uniforms and some don’t.
NYWN: So if booster clubs or donors came together and bought singlets, would they be permitted?
RS: I believe those would not be permitted at this time.
NYWN: In the October Executive Committee notes, a Section representative brought up the fact that wearing Section uniforms could be beneficial from a safety perspective. The quote from the meeting notes was: “The Safety Committee agrees the wearing of Section uniforms at the State Wrestling Championships would improve the efficiency and time in which the appropriate medical personnel could respond to an injured athlete.” What was the outcome of that discussion?
RS: That was presented at the October meeting. The Executive Committee did not approve the proposal.
NYWN: Since the elimination of Section uniforms was made across all sports, do you think a change is possible in a single sport like wrestling or do you think it would have to be made across the board?
RZ: Other sports have brought this issue up as well. Cross country is one of them. But in the end, it’s completely up to the Executive Committee.
NYWN: Some of the arguments made for returning to the Sectional singlets are the years and years of tradition and the ability for family, fans and media to be able to follow the action in Albany. Are there other impacts you see?
RZ: It is obviously a big tradition here in New York and I have heard many people talk about how it will change viewing the tournament from the stands. We also will need to make some changes with the referees because in the past, they could quickly look at the Section singlets, make sure there weren’t wrestlers from their Section competing and referee that match. We’ll have to come up with a method for officials to quickly see that the wrestlers about to compete are not part of their Section.
NYWN: So, for those who want their voices to be heard on this issue, what should they know?
RZ: The Executive Committee made the change. My understanding is that cost was the focus of the decision. They’ll need reasons to reverse the decision. I don’t mind hearing the passion and perspectives of the member schools and constituents on this issue. But I don’t have the ability to overturn this and neither do a number of others on the petition. The people who want their voices heard should make sure their opinions are heard by the Section representatives.
NYWN: Thank you.
Further information on the Executive Committee is available here.