Girls CYO: Family united by sport

Girls CYO: Family united by sport
Pictured top row, left to right: Calvin Lo, Alex Lo, Kathryn Zeltser, Alexis Wu, Amber Chau, Emily Feng, Yutong Xing, Peter Chang. Bottom row, left to right: Hayden Kong, Gabrielle Wang, Elsa Lo, Zoe Ho, Joslyn Cai, Madeleine Chin. Not pictured: Gabrielle Villega

By Alex Lo

“How many of you here have watched basketball?” coach Peter Chang asked the group
of soon-to-be 5th-grade girls in the summer of 2022.

A deafening silence engulfed the court as the girls looked at each other with blank stares.

It was then that Chang realized what he had gotten himself into. On Saturday, Feb. 10, just 18 short months later, the team finished second place in the 6th grade C-league
CYO playoffs of Long Island out of 45 teams.

Over that summer of 2022, Chang, assistant coach Calvin Lo, and special
assistant Alex Lo worked tirelessly with the girls to develop them into a great young group.

Week by week, practice by practice, the parents noticed significant improvement and were
astonished by how much their girls had transformed as both players and maturing young women.

Chang taught the fundamentals of basketball to a group that barely even knew the rules, as well as echoing the lessons of life, such as practicing until you never get it wrong, and not just practicing until you get it right.

In the ensuing season, the girls realized the harsh reality of playing sports. Defeat. The
girls started their season losing their first six games, their heads hung low, and all confidence was stripped from them, but their coach kept instilling confidence in them that eventually, all this hard work would pay off.

They continued to practice hard and noticed improvement as they finished their season with four straight wins. This was just a glimpse of what was to come for this special group.

Due to their losing record, the girls did not make the 5th grade playoffs, but they
immediately set their sights on a new goal. Their success in the second half of their season gave the girls the confidence they needed to practice weekly for the summer, in the hopes of having an undefeated season.

They learned plays, skills, and most importantly, resilience.

The girls started their 6th-grade season undefeated but faced an incredible challenge
during their game against St. Catherine.

The girls were physically outmatched by the size and speed of their opponent, and they were losing for the first time in the season.

However, they were not mentally outmatched by St. Catherine. Chang and Lo urged the girls to remember the lessons they learned about resilience and apply those lessons to the game.

It was as if someone had turned a switch on inside the girls. They suddenly came storming back and eventually won the game by a landslide. This game was just a precursor of the success to follow. The girls enjoyed success for the rest of the season, reaching their goal of being undefeated for the year.

The playoffs rolled around and the girls were the number one seed of the entire 6th grade
Long Island bracket, meaning they were the best team out of all of them.

They fought hard as the girls had never been in such a high-pressure situation before, but Chang’s lessons of resilience were instilled in the girls as they won their first two games, making the finals.

For the finals, the entire Great Neck CYO community banded together behind one cause.
CYO coordinators, friends, and even members of other CYO teams came to support the church on the front of the jersey – St. Aloysius.

The girls played hard and fought for every play. When the final buzzer sounded the score read 30 (St. Patrick) to 20 (St. Aloysius). Despite their loss, the girls held their heads high, proud of all that they accomplished and what it meant to the Great Neck CYO program.

That day, the girls came home with much more than a trophy. They came home with the
lessons they learned along the way. The lessons they learned while playing basketball applied to their everyday lives.

The fact that the girls were able to go from not even knowing the rules of basketball, to being in the CYO finals within a year and a half, was an accomplishment that would’ve been impossible without the support of the entire CYO community.

Looking back, the experience that the girls had during CYO, was much more than basketball, it built friendships, life skills, and united a community under one cause. The journey was just as important as the destination.

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