Sports

CYO Mourns Loss of Influential Track Lifer John Bennett

John Bennett served the CYO track community for nearly 50 years. He’s seen here preparing runners at the start line of a race in 1982. (Photo courtesy of Bob Corrigan)

The Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) of the Diocese of Brooklyn has sadly lost a track icon.

John Bennett, who devoted nearly 50 years to the CYO track community, passed away recently. In his half-century of service, he held a number of roles and fully committed himself to the children of the organization.

“John had a passion for track, for CYO, for the children in the program and for their safety and health,” said CYO Sports Coordinator Keith Goldberg. “We hope to honor his memory when we are all able to resume CYO activity.”

Bennett’s son joined the CYO track team at St. Benedict Joseph Labre, Richmond Hill, in the 1970s, so that’s how Bennett started coaching. In 1980, he became a founding member of the CYO track committee, a group of skilled volunteers who oversee and run all aspects of the CYO track meets for the cross-country, indoor and outdoor seasons.

In the fall of 1983, Bennett was appointed as CYO track coordinator and held that job until 1991. His zeal and dedication to the CYO athletes were the chief components for the successful operation of the track league.

As an administrator, he researched best practices from CYO leagues in other cities across the country in an effort to raise the quality of the diocesan track program. Later, he acted as the meet director at all CYO competitions.

In addition to his time with CYO track, Bennett was a First Aid instructor for the Red Cross and a member of the New York Roadrunners Club’s medical team. He took it upon himself to train many of his fellow CYO coaches in First Aid and CPR, and he relentlessly stressed the importance of protecting the safety of the children by sharing information about sports injuries and conditions like asthma.

“Over the years with the help of the CYO track committee, John strived to perfect the way track meets were run: safe, fair, efficient, and to meet the different teams’ needs,” said Peter Moore, who served with Bennett for many years directing meets. “He also made sure that coaches informed parents to always carry rescue inhalers for asthmatic children. He will
be missed by all.”

During meets, he served as the onsite medical resource given his vast knowledge. He even volunteered his services to individual parish practices and events, such as the St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights, Olympic Games, held from 1982-1992 for developmentally challenged children from Mercy Home in Brooklyn and the diocese’s special education programs.

“John was a constant presence at CYO track events,” said Mary Glascock, who has coached CYO track for more than 50 years at St. Joan of Arc. “He married his passion for track with his work as a volunteer EMT promoting sports safety measures to any team who reached out. CYO track will not be the same without John at the finish line or grabbing his medic’s bag to help an injured athlete.”

In 2000, through his connection to Jamaica Hospital as an EMS technician at the Woodhaven Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Bennett was instrumental in organizing a toy collection from CYO track families for the hospital’s pediatric department. The collection has grown every year and continues to benefit the children of less fortunate families.

John Bennett, center, was inducted into the CYO Hall of fame in 2015. He is pictured with CYO Director Rob Caldera, left, and longtime St. Joan of Arc CYO track coach Bob Corrigan, right. (Photo (C) Jim Mancari)

“John was simply always there, always ready to work and always ready to do whatever it might take to improve the experience for the children and parents,” said Andy Kotowicz, recently retired track coach from St. Kevin, Flushing, as well as the former head of the CYO track committee. “From the scraped knee to the asthma attack, each and every case was handled in his caring but totally professional way.

“John was truly a gift to the CYO community, and that gift was his presence. He is surely irreplaceable, but we are just as surely a better organization because of his time with us.”

Bennett was enshrined as a member of the CYO’s second-ever Hall of Fame class in 2015. Bob Corrigan, longtime CYO track coach at St. Joan of Arc, had the honor of introducing Bennett during the induction ceremony.

“When John receives his Hall of Fame plaque in a few moments, that plaque should really be formed in the shape of a heart, because for the past 43 years, John Bennett has truly been the heart of CYO track,” said Corrigan, who referred to Bennett as the most influential CYO track figure the league has ever known. “John made the world a better place, and CYO track and each of us associated with it are better because of his efforts.”

What started as simply wanting to coach his son evolved into a lifelong endeavor to serve all the children within the CYO track community. His legacy will not soon be forgotten.

“I started it when my son joined the track team, and I stayed,” Bennett told The Tablet at the 2015 CYO Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “It was partly combined with my medical assignment. I’ve been a lifelong EMT, and I brought that also to the CYO.”

Thank you John, for your dedicated service. You will truly be missed.


Contact Jim Mancari via email at jmmanc@gmail.com.

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