By John L. Aaron
The Public School Athletic League (PSAL) of the New York City Department of Education’s high school system held their annual dinner and awards ceremony on Monday, June 14 at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY, where the 2010 Wingate Awards were distributed to some 37 athletes.
Started in 1903 by President Teddy Roosevelt, the PSAL operates sports programs in 230 high schools engaging 20,000 student athletes and hosting 40 championships, each year. It is the longest running program of its kind in the United States. More athletes compete in PSAL programs than the NBA, MLB and the NHL combined. There are more than 2,000 coaches and 5,000 officials, who manage the PSAL program that has seen such world-class athletes as baseball players Manny Ramirez and Willie Randolph, along with basketball player Stephon Marbury, emerge as success stories.
There were well over 200 guests in attendance at the awards dinner, including student athlete honorees, parents, family and friends, coaches, commissioners and top officials of the city’s Department of Education, as well as the evening’s guest speaker and former New York Jets footballer – Marty Lyons.
The annual event honors those outstanding senior year student athletes, acknowledging their athletic prowess and accomplishments, both in the sport of their choice and their academic accomplishments, while doing so.
“These students have shown prowess on and off the field, and I congratulate them,” said Deputy Chancellor for Infrastructure and Planning Kathleen Grimm. “The PSAL teaches students how to compete and the value of good sportsmanship, both attributes that will put them in good stead as young adults.”
The evening’s senior student cricket athlete was Kavishwar Bridgepaul, a senior at Richmond Hill High School in Queens, NY and a 2009 USA Cricket All-America cricketer. Bridgepaul was born in Guyana and has been playing cricket competitively from age nine.
Words such as exciting, invigorating and fantastic were used to describe the PSAL program by several of the evening’s speakers, including the Executive Director of the PSAL Donald Douglas, who reaffirmed his commitment to the program by stating, “I believe in our student athletes.”
Marty Lyons, a mainstay defensive tackle of the NY Jets’ renowned “Sack Exchange” during the 80’s offered some inspiring words to the graduating senior athletes, based not only on his 12 year NFL career with the Jets, his college years at Alabama State university under the legendary football coach Paul Bear Bryant, and some of his more emotional experiences as president of the Marty Lyons Foundation – dedicated to granting the wishes of terminally ill children.
Mr. Lyons, a 1984 recipient of the Walter Payton Award for his humanitarian endeavors, in quoting Coach Bear Bryant said, “A winner in the game of life is one who takes time to help others grow.” He urged the athletes to use the evening’s awards as a stepping stone to life, commenting “You don’t have to be an athlete to save someone’s life, all you have to do is care.”
Receiving a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks, the former football jock urged the athletes to prioritize their lives by taking time to prepare themselves to enjoy life, stating “…your active involvement in the sport will end, but you must learn to live, learn and be happy.”
A very happy Kavishwar Bridgepaul was accompanied to the awards dinner by his father Daneshwar Bridgepaul, high school coach Lomarshan Persaud, a younger cousin, USA Cricket’s Executive Secretary John Aaron, President of the NY/Nassau Cricket League Paul DaSilva, and PSAL cricket commissioner Bassett Thompson.
One of the fastest bowlers on his high school team, Kavishwar led Richmond Hill High School to the 2010 PSAL finals. The accomplished batsman has scored more than 600 runs for his team, while taking more than 30 wickets in the last three years. According to his high school coach, “He is Mr. Everything. He’s the most gifted and hard-working athlete I have ever coached, as well as a dedicated student.”
The 6’ 1” Bridgepaul will be attending Queens College of the City University of New York in the fall to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Several individuals and organizations were acknowledged for their financial and other contributions to the PSAL program, including the United States of America Cricket Association.