Our Youth

Kings County League Coming to CYO

Members of the diocesan Catholic Youth Organization boys’ basketball league play on the court at Barclays Center, the home of the Brooklyn Nets. (Photo courtesy CYO)

We’ve all been there. No matter what time of day, there always seems to be traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. It’s inevitable!

Traffic congestion in this diocese is such a concern that it has reshaped the local Catholic Youth Organization (CYO).

Years ago, many Brooklyn parishes broke away to form their own sports leagues, because traveling to Queens became too much of a hassle.

When CYO director Rob Caldera took over more than six years ago, one of his main goals was to start bringing the Brooklyn parishes back into the league.

He and his team have enjoyed success so far, and now a new league under the CYO umbrella will increase the number of Brooklyn children participating in CYO.

The CYO Kings County basketball league is about to take shape. It will begin this fall/winter season with boys’ teams from third grade through eighth grade. Eventually, a girls’ league will be formed, as well.

Basketball is CYO’s largest sport, with 800 teams from second grade through high school participating across the diocese. Thus, using hoops to re-engage the Brooklyn parishes was the logical starting point.

Over the past few years, Brooklyn parishes have competed in volleyball, soccer, flag football, swimming and track, and there are even 22 parishes that field basketball teams. But the bulk of the CYO parishes are located in Queens.

“When we run preseason or Christmas tournaments or other special events, they’re mainly in Queens, so all these Queens teams get these opportunities,” Caldera said. “So I felt let’s give the Brooklyn parishes a second opportunity to play more and have something locally as well.”

The Kings County league will feature the same rules, mission and values as the parent diocesan CYO league. The new league will have its own playoffs and its own champion — separate from the diocesan champion. Caldera is encouraging Brooklyn parishes to compete in both the Kings County league and the diocesan league if they so choose.

When Caldera met with the Brooklyn parishes to discuss the idea about a year ago, the same concern came up: travel. You could spend your whole day trying to get from central or southern Brooklyn to eastern Queens.

“Traveling 3 miles could take an hour and half,” Caldera said. “When you have to travel, it takes longer to get to the site than it does to play the actual game itself. That gets frustrating.”

With the new league, the Brooklyn parishes will be part of CYO and won’t have to worry about extensive travel. The coaches and parish athletic representatives agreed that they wanted to join CYO, because the organization is well-run and knows how to set up a competitive schedule.

The goal with the league mirrors the goal of any youth sports league: allow more kids to play. More kids playing means more kids learning the CYO values of teamwork, sportsmanship and fair play — all of which will come in handy later in life.

“We’re looking forward to this opportunity to get even more parish teams into CYO,” Caldera said. “It could also lead to growth in other sports areas. We know that these parishes have specific sports within Brooklyn that they do internally and keep local, so this is going to be our starting point to reach in.”

Caldera has his sights set on eventually having a local summer basketball league in Brooklyn, local hoops tournaments in Brooklyn and local All-Star games in Brooklyn. The Kings County league will serve as the precursor for his vision of giving more kids an opportunity to play.

“It’s our foot in the water,” Caldera said. “Then we’ll start swimming.”

Parishes with boys’ basketball teams interested in joining the new Kings County league should visit cyodob.org and navigate to the “Basketball – Kings County” tab, which contains all the necessary registration forms.

Coaches can also call the main CYO phone number with any questions: 718-281-9548.  The deadline for teams to register is Monday, Sept. 23.

The CYO is all about unity, and the Kings County league is the start of once again having a fully unified youth sports organization in the diocese. Not even bumper-to-bumper traffic on the BQE can stop what the CYO is trying to accomplish.

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