Column: Youth sports thriving on Island

Reporter Sports Columnist Bob DeStefano

Like a lot of people on Shelter Island, I’ve been aware of CYO and their different youth sport programs. But I truly didn’t understand who they were or what they did. After questioning and watching for the past few weeks, I now have a basic understanding of their programs and mission.

I first went to Father Peter DeSanctis (since he normally loves to talk) to get his advice. Sometimes Father Peter believes that the buck doesn’t even pause with him, since he immediately steered me to Mary Ellen Adipietro, the CYO boys basketball coordinator. Ms. Adipietro met with me and carefully explained the program and why she feels it is so important for volunteers to be involved.

Even though CYO stands for Catholic Youth Organization, kids of all religions are invited to participate. I was told that the immediate goals are teaching student athletes to have fun at sports, play hard and fair and respect coaches, officials, opponents and parents. The organization emphasizes winning with humility and losing with grace. At one game I attended, I saw how serious CYO is about rules. When a parent blew a horn during a free throw shot to upset the opposing team, the referee immediately informed the parent they only get one warning and then they are asked to leave.

On Shelter Island, we have three CYO basketball teams controlled by a regional director, Sue Thomas, located in Hicksville. The program here is sponsored by our local parish with expenses going mainly for equipment, uniforms and to pay officials. I’m always surprised how many people get involved as volunteers, knowing how much time they give to meetings, practices and games. My hat goes off to these coaches, scorekeepers and others willing to give of themselves for the betterment of the children.

It’s a long season, running from November 1 to the end of February. The home games are played on Sunday afternoons with the fourth grade usually playing first at around 1:15 p.m., sixth grade next at 2:30 p.m. and the fifth grade tipping off at 3:45 p.m. The next home game is Sunday, January 6.

Our fourth grade team plays 10 games a year and is coached by Carlos Payano with Bruce Taplin as his assistant. Walter Richards, a future Shelter Island School Athletic Hall of Fame basketball player, coaches the fifth grade’s 12 game season by himself. The sixth grade has a 12-to-14 game stretch with Ian Kanarvogel coaching and Jimbo Theinert as his assistant. David Gurney is currently the girl’s coordinator, but unfortunately couldn’t get a team together and is working hard for 2013.

Coach Richards said all three coaches want the kids to learn to think for themselves. He feels too many coaches have drawn-up plays and want the kids to follow them to the letter and play like robots. Coach Richards wants his athletes to stay alert, think for themselves and play the game as it unfolds, meaning learning when to shoot or find the open man and get the ball to him.

Ms. Adipietro tells me that at this stage it’s mostly about teaching basics and not a lot of emphasis on winning and losing. All kids get a chance to play, and refs are fairly lenient on fouls. With seven minute periods and a four minute halftime, the games go fairly quickly.

I asked Ms. Adipietro what she would like to see happen for a better program. She feels the gym is so well-used it’s difficult to get any time to practice, so it would be nice if the program had more room. She would also like more kids to get involved and the girls to step up and organize a team.

But those are very minor problems for a great program. I hope to see you at the next game on Sunday, January 6