Changing of the guard

by Kara Hansen

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For the first time in three decades, there will be a new face at the head of the Johnson and Wyandotte County Catholic Youth Organization this fall.

For 36 years, David Nick has been the organization’s executive director. Now, with Nick’s retirement, Peter Piscitello has become the organization’s new director.

Piscitello comes to CYO from the state of Washington — but he is no stranger to the archdiocese. Originally from West Des Moines, Iowa, he graduated from Benedictine College in 2007 before going on to earn a master’s degree in intercollegiate athletic leadership from the University of Washington. Most recently, Piscitello was the athletics business manager at Eastern Washington University.

“What attracted me to this position first and foremost was the archdiocese,” said Piscitello. “At Benedictine [College], I met Archbishop Naumann and worked with the priests and people there, and it was evident there is such a vibrant Catholic spirit in the archdiocese.”

Piscitello said he was looking forward to the opportunity to work with the people who keep CYO activities up and running, as well as the student athletes themselves.

“I’m excited to meet and work with the people who help with CYO — the coaches, athletic directors, board members, school staff, and priests,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to develop athletic programs that will help bring kids into sports but, more importantly, to help them grow as Catholics and students.”

CYO board chairman Jim Casey said he felt Piscitello would be a great addition to CYO, and was an ideal candidate for the position.

“We were looking for someone who brought a Catholic, faith-filled approach to CYO, while having a good understanding of athletics and programs,” said Casey. “Pete was thorough, professional, and had really done his homework on the position.”

Casey said the CYO board was looking for an executive director with new ideas who could add to a well-established program.

“We were looking for someone with new ideas, and it was really a benefit that Pete came from out of town and had no preconceived notions of CYO here,” said Casey. “He had a lot of fresh ideas. We’re looking at this as a new chapter of CYO and an evolution of the existing program.”

CYO board member Barb Wheeler agreed.

“Peter’s enthusiasm and vision for CYO really won people over,” she said. “We’re excited about what Peter brings and for the opportunity to work with him.”

Even as the CYO moves forward, however, those involved say it is Nick’s work that Piscitello will be building on.

Roeland Park’s St. Agnes School athletic director Mike Whitmore said that in the 22 years he has worked with Nick, he has known him to be a hard worker who gets the job done quietly and efficiently.

“Dave has always been very professional and always looks at what’s best for the kids first,” said Whitmore. “He’s not one to want a pat on the back. He goes out and does what needs to be done and feels that’s enough accomplishment in itself.”

True to Whitmore’s description of him, Nick said his enjoyment of the job he has held over three decades was in seeing CYO at work and the kids participating in sports.

“The growth of the program has been big, with many more kids participating over the years,” said Nick. “More than anything, I have enjoyed providing a program kids seem to enjoy.”

Though offering sports programs to youth has always been the goal of CYO programming since it began in 1940, Nick has certainly seen some changes in the organization during his tenure.

Whitmore described some of the typical changes that occur regularly in CYO — new board members and changing athletic directors — as well as recent developments in the program itself, such as the inclusion of high school sports teams and the transition to Web-based sign-ups.

“Dave has had a huge job that has expanded over the years, and there are always changes taking place,” said Whitmore. “He’s been flexible as things have changed over the years and has always been a steady force through thick and thin. Dave has always been there to keep us going. He will be missed.”

Casey agreed, and praised Nick for the solid program he had put in place.

“Dave has been the center point for CYO — he is iconic,” said Casey. “His administrative processes were always smooth, and he has always made sure all the programs are run efficiently and well. He’s done a very good job consistently for 36 years, and that’s pretty incredible.”

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