By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Richard Wright recently graduated from New Utrecht High School and is getting ready to start at LIU Post next fall as part of its football team. However, before he leaves for school next month, he can be found at Lincoln High School participating in the Big Apple Games.
The Big Apple Games is a free program designed as an extension to the Public School Athletic League meant to keep kids off the streets and keep them in shape during the summer months. Kids from grades four through 12 from all over Brooklyn and New York City participate. Some, like Wright, come back even after they’ve graduated.
"This is fun," Wright said. "It gives kids a place where we can spend time together during the summer, and it gets us ready for the season. In my case, it just happens to be the college season.”
The games start in early July and end in early August. The program is split into two parts with junior high students showing up to camp from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., and high school students attend either a 1 to 5 p.m. or 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. program. The Games aren’t limited to football, also. There are sites throughout the city that include gymnastics, cricket, swimming, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball and lacrosse.
“It keeps kids off of the streets, keeps them out of trouble and gets them a little conditioning so it's a good thing,” said Shawn O'Connor, Lincoln High School’s football coach. “Kids don’t have to be a part of a high school team either. We don't chase anyone away. Kids from the neighborhood that aren't on teams will stop by. All they have to do is sign up and be a member.”
Coaches also commented on how the Games give students a head start for the fall season.
“It gives us a chance to get them in shape and teach them the fundamentals over the summer,” said Erasmus Hall’s football coach Danny Landberg. “That way we're already done with the page-one stuff before we even get to the first day of practice and can start with the more technical stuff.”
It also creates great rivalries between the schools. At Canarsie High School, there are teams from Canarsie, Erasmus Hall and South Shore all practicing on the same field. At Lincoln High School, there are teams from New Utrecht, Midwood, Lafayette, FDR from the Bronx, Fort Hamilton and even Holy Cross, a Catholic school from Queens. Poly Prep, a private school, comes on Wednesdays. This is typical all around New York City.
“It's funny because last year when we played New Utrecht I had to warn the referees,” O’Connor said. “I told one ref, 'Listen, these guys might say stuff to each other on the field during the game, but it's fine because they know each other really well, they work out all summer together and are good friends.' [It] gives them a chance to make friends at other schools.”
The program has been taking place for the last 13 years.
“This definitely helps [New York City] athletes get to where they want to be,” Wright said. “You see guys coming here the last four years like Darin Peart [Stony Brook], Curtis Samuel [Ohio State] and Thomas Holley [Florida] are going on to D-I schools and they’re just as good as kids from other states.”
Anybody looking for information on the Big Apple Games can visit www.PSAL.org.