The Mattituck School District acted within its rights to exclude Greenport students from competing on the varsity boys lacrosse team this spring. But the decision was still misguided and unfair.
A benefit for students attending small schools like those on the North Fork is the ability to join nearly any team. Coaches here generally don’t have to make cuts for varsity teams as they do at larger schools, where eager participants are sometimes left behind due to roster constraints.
The priority for administrators on the North Fork should be to expand opportunities for students to play sports, never to take them away. In this case, dropping Greenport from the combined varsity team with Mattituck and Southold affects one student. That should be all it takes to keep Greenport included, as it has been since the lacrosse program started in 2010.
Whether student-athletes are All-Americans or the last players on the bench, they deserve the right to join the varsity team if they are capable players and meet the academic requirements.
Administrators in Mattituck have been left talking in circles to explain to upset parents the reasoning behind this decision, which was based on a recommendation from the athletic department. A key factor cited has been safety, meaning the team can compete more equally against schools its own size.
The decision has nothing to do with safety. It’s entirely about creating an easier path to the state tournament.
With Greenport participating, the team qualifies as Class C. Without Greenport, it qualifies as Class D.
Winning in Class D — which has only two other teams in Suffolk County — is far easier than winning in Class C.
The classification determines where the team competes in the postseason and doesn’t directly affect the regular-season schedule. So the Tuckers will still play teams from Class B and Class C. Last season, they opened the year with a 7-2 win over Middle Country, a much larger Class A school.
School officials would have been wise to be transparent about this. They could have presented a more compelling argument for the decision by saying that playing in Class D gives the remaining students a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete for a state championship. Maybe people would have bought into that. Talking about safety only makes them look clueless or dishonest.
Even if the team can increase its odds of postseason glory, it shouldn’t come at the expense of a student who has committed so much time to the sport and the program.