History has been made in the Brooklyn sports landscape.
No, it has nothing to do with the Brooklyn Nets or Brooklyn Cyclones. Instead, it’s St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in Greenpoint that’s generated the buzz.
Just in time for the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) spring season, St. Stan’s Brooklyn started the first girls’ volleyball team in parish history. The team is made up of girls from grades five through eight and competes in the CYO’s Intermediate division.
Sure, with any new sports program, there has been a learning curve. Yet the girls have developed a passion for the sport and have taken to the court with an unmatched enthusiasm and willingness to learn from their mistakes.
The journey started within the parochial school, St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy. Starting this school year, the administration rolled out a number of sports clubs for interested students to join, including soccer, swimming, basketball, bowling, and volleyball.
Frank Carbone, the school’s president, saw how determined the volleyball girls were to improve, so he brought up the idea to them to turn the club into a CYO team, competing against other parishes. Within five seconds, the girls were all in for this venture, with Carbone stepping up to be the head coach.
“By the next day, we were practicing,” said Carbone, who’s been in his current role for three years and has been associated with sports at St. Stan’s – Brooklyn for 35 years. “Within a month, we were playing our first game.”
Carbone is the former athletic director and women’s basketball coach at St. Joseph’s College (now University) Brooklyn, Clinton Hill. He’s forgotten more basketball than even the savviest hoops aficionados claim to know. However, in all his years of coaching, he had never coached the sport of volleyball.
Just like many of his players were taking up volleyball for the first time, Carbone was learning right beside them. The focus in this first season has been on understanding the basics and keeping things simple. The foundational building blocks of the program have been established, and that’s already considered to be a major success.
“You know how many YouTube videos I’ve watched!” Carbone said. “I called up my old coaches from St. Joe’s to ask for some tips as well. I’m learning as much as the girls are, and it’s been a blast!”
Since this was the first-ever volleyball team at the parish, a few very important steps had to be taken. New equipment was needed, and even more importantly, the gymnasium needed to be properly fitted with the net system, which involved drilling holes into the hardwood floor. Carbone did plenty of research and received the support of the parish’s pastor, Father Grzegorz Markulak, to drill away.
The team practices several times a week and then plays its matches on weekends. All the players get a fair shot at time on the court, which helps them learn what to do in different situations. From day one until now, the improvement has been astronomical.
“We were all over the place at the beginning,” said Juliette Gorczyca, an eighth-grade middle hitter for St. Stan’s who serves as team captain. “We were letting balls hit the floor. It was not good! But now, the progress that we’ve made is really amazing.
“The whole team works as one unit now. Everyone is running to balls and chasing after them. Serving has gotten so much better. I’m very proud of our team, and I know Mr. Carbone is as well. We’ve come a long way.”
So far, it’s been all about keeping things light and fresh. Fellow students and faculty have supported the team in the stands, and there was even a pep rally held before one of the home games – adding to the excitement surrounding this historic team.
“We do a lot of drills to make things fun,” Carbone said. “Yet they don’t even realize they’re learning. They’re not focused on whether we win. We’re just trying to get better.”
Communication is such an important aspect of volleyball. It’s also so important for grammar school students, so the skills learned on the volleyball court undoubtedly can translate well into the classroom and beyond.
“The most important parts about volleyball are definitely teamwork and communication,” said Monica Chibowski, an eighth-grade outside hitter for St. Stan’s Brooklyn. “You really have to rely on your teammates. It feels good to set an example for the next players that are going to be joining. It’s a really great experience.”
Already there’s been enough interest from the school’s younger students to be thinking about two CYO girls’ volleyball teams for next year. Even the boys have begun to express interest as well. These girls have truly been the pioneers of a growing parish sports program.
Wins and losses aside, this season was all about writing the first of many chapters in the parish’s volleyball history. There is actually a huge win here: getting more children playing CYO sports and practicing their Catholic faith. That’s the greatest win of all.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.