- Ashley Wang
BTS Mourns Donald Douglas, PSAL Executive Director and BTS Leadership Council Member
Remembering Douglas's transformative achievements and passion for wrestling
Donald Douglas, longtime executive director of the New York City Public School Athletic League and Leadership Council Member of Beat the Streets, passed this weekend while on vacation in Jamaica.
Douglas, who had just retired from the PSAL last week, oversaw the entirety of public youth sports programming for more than 45,000 student-athletes in his role as executive director. He had been dedicated to that position since 2004, when he was promoted from deputy director. The sum of his work in this sphere of public service, however, transcended even the PSAL: in total, Douglas spent more than 35 years working for the New York City Department of Education.
He was also monumental in the explosive development of New York City wrestling. Under his guidance, the PSAL worked in partnership with Beat the Streets to triple the number of boy’s high school wrestling programs from 25 teams in 2009 to 78 teams today. He also worked to add 27 girl’s teams to form the first all-girls freestyle high school league in the country.
“Donald didn’t know the word ‘no,’” said Kyra Barry, former president of the Beat the Streets Board of Directors. “He understood how to make things happen in the complexity of New York City and the Department of Education and wisely guided Beat the Streets.”
Throughout the years, the PSAL and Beat the Streets worked in close collaboration to provide opportunities for kids in wrestling. As the PSAL hosted wrestling tournaments and events, Beat the Streets provided coaching seminars, summer camps, and an avenue for off-season competition.
“We had a shared vision of how Beat the Streets and the PSAL could work together to support student-athletes in our New York City community,” said Beat the Streets Executive Director Brendan Buckley. “Personally, I’m saddened as we developed a friendship that became stronger each year and I came to realize what a great friend he was and how much I will miss him.”
Ray Barczak, chairman of Beat the Streets, says Douglas was integral to the success of the organization.
“Donald was such an advocate for wrestling and was always a supporter of BTS,” said Barczak. “The success of our program can be directly tied to Donald’s involvement through the PSAL.”
While Douglas was not a wrestler by trade, he was widely known to be a passionate fan of the sport, having been present often at tournaments and other competitions with his unwavering support. Ken Bigley, PSAL Sports Coordinator, recalls some of his favorite memories being spent with Douglas at the PSAL Girls Wrestling Team Championships in Times Square, as well as at the Beat the Streets Annual Benefit, where Douglas presented the annual awards to youth wrestlers.
“The energy of the wrestling followed by the excitement of being on the mat with Donald while we recognized our exceptional student-athletes in the crossroads of the world made for a very special moment,” said Bigley.
Beat the Streets, along with the rest of the New York City youth sports community, mourns this loss deeply.
"Donald was someone who not only cared but also someone who put meaning behind caring,” said Beat the Streets Board Member Eric Goldstein. “Donald was responsible for enriching the lives of NYC school children in ways that will just live on for generations.”
From those who knew him best:
Ken Bigley, PSAL Sports Coordinator:
“Donald was a great mentor, a respected leader, and exceptional friend and his loss is personally heartbreaking. Some of my favorite memories with Donald were watching the PSAL Girls Wrestling team championships in Time Square with him and then watching him present the annual Beat The Streets awards to the New York City youth wrestlers. The energy of the wrestling followed by the excitement being on the mat with Donald while we recognized our exceptional student-athletes in the crossroads of the world made for very special moments.”
Penn Gottfried, Beat the Streets Director of Youth Programming:
“I’m incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of Donald Douglas. I knew him as an ardent advocate for opportunities for NYC youth athletes and a passionate friend of Beat The Streets. I know he is going to be sorely missed both by the people who knew him and the future of sports in NYC.”
Ray Barczak, Beat the Streets Chairman:
“Donald was such an advocate for wrestling and was always a supporter of BTS. The success of our program can be directly tied to Donald’s involvement through the PSAL. We lost a great man, leader, and friend of BTS this weekend.”
Brendan Buckley, Beat the Streets Executive Director
“I met Donald the first week I was at Beat the Streets and it was obvious that he cared greatly about the sport of wrestling and the impact it can have on the youth of New York City. He could be found at the Mayor’s Cup, the Gotham City Girls Championships and the New York State Championships cheering on PSAL’s hard working student-athletes. Personally, I’m saddened as we developed a friendship that became stronger each year and I came to realize what a great friend he was and how much I will miss him.”
Kyra Barry, Former President of Beat the Streets Board of Directors:
“Donald was an extraordinary partner in serving NYC’s youth; Beat the Streets was fortunate to work with him for over 15 years in providing wrestling opportunities in New York City. Donald didn’t know the word “no”. He understood how to make things happen in the complexity of New York City and the Department of Education and wisely guided BTS. Together BTS and Donald’s PSAL grew NYC wrestling from 25 to 78 boys high schools and added 27 girls teams to form the first all girls freestyle high school league in the country. Donald was a kind and patient man and his steady hand, unique insights and, most of all, friendship will be sorely missed.”
Eric Goldstein, Beat the Streets Board Member:
"Donald was someone who not only cared but also someone who put meaning behind caring. Donald was responsible for enriching the lives of NYC school children in ways that will just live on for generations. The establishment of several new PSAL sports, such as: girls wrestling, cricket, double dutch are just of the non-traditional sports that are now enshrined in the PSAL roster."