Diocesan News

When the Time Comes, CYO Will Return to Play Safely

The St. Andrew Avellino, Flushing, Pee Wee boys’ CYO basketball team was one of the last teams to be crowned diocesan champions before sports shut down in the diocese. (Photo: courtesy of Rob Scott)

Slowly but surely, New York City has begun the phases of reopening following the COVID-19 pandemic.

While a return completely back to normal is still a long way away, steps are being taken within our local diocesan Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) to develop a safe return to play plan for when sports are once again allowed.

Just like the rest of the city, CYO shut down in mid-March as the coronavirus began its spread. All the girls’ basketball teams had just finished up their diocesan championships, though only the Kings County, Pee Wee, Tyro and Junior divisions were able to complete their championships on the boys’ side.

As it stands, the CYO summer basketball league that usually starts up right after July 4 will not go on as planned. The organization’s sole focus at this point is to follow CDC, state, city and diocesan guidelines to safely open up sports when the time is right.

“We’re not just going to throw the doors open and go back to the way things were; we can’t,” said
CYO Director Rob Caldera. “It will be a return to play — safely and smartly. Even when we’re cleared
to resume play, there’s going to be a lot of new safety protocols and procedures in place.”

On June 15, Caldera and his staff held a virtual Zoom conference with 50 parish athletic representatives to discuss the ongoing situation and the steps needed to move forward.

CYO will be creating a master document in the coming weeks that outlines the guidelines, protocols and procedures for a safe return to play. Specific dates on the start of each specific sport are pending based on additional guidelines.

“CYO will only operate events if it is absolutely safe to do so for all participants and team supporters. Everyone is fully on board with returning to play safely,” said Caldera, who has been working tirelessly to keep his parishes informed while staying up to date with the ever-changing information coming from a wide variety of sources.

Following the lead from the Archdiocese of New York and Diocese of Rockville Centre, CYO sent out a return to play survey to all 12,000 families in April. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive, with 65 percent saying they would have their child resume sports activity, even before a vaccine is available. Another 25 percent responded “Maybe,” while 10 percent responded “No.”

“For us as an organization, the survey was really to get a feel of what the families and parents are think-
ing,” said Caldera, who has remained in constant contact with the CYO directors from the neighboring dioceses. “They’re the ones that are going to make the decisions. The kids are going to want to play, but the parents will make the ultimate decision.”

Some possible new protocols include sanitation stations located throughout facilities, limiting the number of spectators and games, shifting to a regional schedule to avoid travel and instituting specific arrival times for teams as to not create unnecessary clutter inside a venue.

While CYO is known for instilling the values of sportsmanship in its athletes, pre and postgame hand-
shakes will have to be put on hold temporarily — since handshakes could be a major point of virus transmission. However, CYO will develop some sort of acknowledgment gesture to continue its tradition of respecting opponents. Of course, the CYO prayer will continue to be read
prior to games.

Additionally, a CYO Return to Play Task Force featuring representatives from throughout the diocese will be formed to work over the summer to prepare for the return. Sports are such an important outlet for the physical and mental health and social needs of children, and there has to be a way to do things properly.

“There are a lot of great people out there with a lot of great ideas,” Caldera said. “A lot of our volunteers have worked in different fields in their careers. We have firefighters, we have health officials, we have lawyers that all volunteer their time, so they can provide different insights on ways to do things safely.

In normal times, safety is a top priority for CYO, yet now, safety is more important than ever to make sure the children’s health is protected at all times. The hard work taking place behind the scenes this summer will prepare the organization well for when the final decision is made.

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

To read the latest updates regarding coronavirus concerns in the Brooklyn Diocese, go to https://thetablet.org/coronavirus.

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