When Rob Caldera was 15 years old, he spent most of his time inside the gymnasium at St. Joseph’s parish, Astoria. In fact, if the gym had been open 24 hours, he’d have been there all 24.
If he wasn’t playing sports, he was helping out during basketball tournaments, keeping score or even coaching younger kids. That gymnasium was his home away from home.
These experiences with the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) of Brooklyn and Queens have shaped the man who is now the CYO’s new director.
Caldera, now a parishioner at the Church of St. Aidan, Williston Park, L.I., took over July 8, and he already has a vision for advancing the CYO into the 21st century.
He grew up playing CYO basketball and baseball at St. Joseph’s, where he attended elementary school. While he thoroughly enjoyed his time on the basketball court as a shooting guard and on the baseball diamond as a second baseman, Caldera was always interested in the administrative side of sports.
At Msgr. McClancy M.H.S., East Elmhurst, Caldera was the yearbook editor.
“Ironically, I wasn’t involved in any sports at McClancy because I would always go over to St. Joe’s,” Caldera said. “If the gym was open, I was there. If there were games, I was doing the clock.”
In 1996, Caldera earned a bachelor’s degree in athletic administration from St. John’s University, Jamaica. Right after college, he interned for the public relations department of the New York Rangers, which further piqued his interest in the behind-the-scenes aspects of sports.
Caldera has a long history with CYO. His St. Joseph’s basketball team won the 1987-1988 Intermediate basketball championship under the leadership of Artie Cox, the current junior varsity basketball coach at Christ the King R.H.S., Middle Village.
Caldera served as the St. Joseph’s athletic director for baseball and then basketball before taking over as the parish athletic representative (PAR) to oversee the entire sports program. He was the PAR for 17 years before accepting his new job.
“Being involved all these years and being an administrator at St. Joe’s has helped me understand how CYO works,” Caldera said. “It also helps in how we can improve it.”
Caldera taught in Catholic schools throughout the diocese. He started teaching physical education at St. Gabriel, East Elmhurst, and then began to teach junior high social studies, English and religion. He later taught in the English department and coached freshman basketball and baseball at St. John’s Prep, Astoria. He’s spent the last two years teaching at Our Lady of Sorrows, Corona.
Accepting the Job
Caldera heard about the CYO director opening through his role as the St. Joseph’s PAR. His passion for CYO led him to apply, and the CYO Board of Directors and the diocesan Office of Faith Formation eventually selected him as the new director.
Caldera said he was a little emotional in saying goodbye to teaching, since he enjoyed being with the children on a day-to-day basis. But even so, CYO was always a major part of his life.
“During my day, always in my mind was ‘What am I going to go do for CYO today?’” Caldera said. “The school day was over, but my day didn’t end. I went from one school to another to another. This is a great opportunity to share my skills and knowledge and help improve CYO.”
Caldera’s initial vision in accepting this position is to give CYO a true Catholic identity. He also wants to involve the parishes in the diocese that currently do not have a CYO program.
His other endeavors include forming a spiritual committee, hosting preseason tournaments, working with the Catholic high schools of the diocese, creating CYO bowling and co-ed teen softball, starting a cheerleading program, planning summer leagues, updating the CYO website and instituting band and music programs for children who maybe aren’t as interested in sports.
Of all his plans, he said he’s most excited about the possibility of starting a CYO Hall of Fame.
“There are so many members of our CYO family over the years that have done wonderful things for the youth,” Caldera said. “I really want to start that as an annual event recognizing them at a CYO Hall of Fame dinner and fundraiser to help our programs grow here in the diocese.”
‘C’ Stands for Catholic
The CYO currently features 20,000 young athletes from nearly 100 parishes competing in 15 different sports each year. Caldera said that teaching these kids the values of hope and community outweigh winning an individual contest. The ‘C’ in CYO stands for “Catholic,” and Caldera plans to keep it that way, rather than have that ‘C’ stand for “Championship.”
CYO is a tight-knit family, Caldera said, and that includes the support he’s already received from the individual sports coordinators: Fred Sporrer, Keith Goldberg, Jack Maniscalco, Kathy Kirker, Andy Kotowitz and Cathy Kenny.
“Being on the job only a short period of time, I’ve already learned to see what a supportive staff we have,” Caldera said. “They are more than willing to work with me and my vision of CYO.”
Over the next two months, this team will prepare for the fall CYO season by working with the current programs to get them more organized and structured.
Things may be hectic at times, but Caldera is ready to face any challenges head on as he oversees the growth of an already prosperous organization.