Pastor keeps youth active through hockey
Barrow's Darryl Serino has three kids of his own, but as coach for Barrow's busy youth hockey program he mentors a number closer to 50.
"Being able to minister to kids through the sport of hockey has just been a huge blessing for me," Serino said.
It keeps him busy and active, Serino said, and connected to the community's youth in a positive and inspiring way.
The youth hockey team, called the Barrow Blizzard, includes youth ages 5 to 18. They make up approximately three teams of varying levels and ages. Being a plane ride and quite a distance from other hockey teams in the state, it's difficult to find opportunities to play other teams, Serino said.
"They don't get to play teams regularly like in other parts of Alaska or the country," Serino said. "We can't drive to the next town. The closest hockey program from us is either in Fairbanks or in Anchorage. So it's really difficult to get teams to play us."
They solve that problem by fundraising to travel out of Barrow to play, and to bring teams in.
Most recently they hosted an aged 10 and under youth team from Tok, bringing the kids in for a weekend tournament. The team raised $5,000 in order to bring in their fellow Alaskan youth, and it was a first trip to Barrow for all of the visiting kids.
It was a great way to wrap up the season, Serino said, giving their team a chance to show other kids around Barrow, and getting in some valuable ice time. They were able to get in seven games.
"That went really good that was a lot of fun for all the kids involved," Serino said. "Our kids and the kids from Tok. We all had a good time."
Playing at home
While traveling outside is an excellent experience, Serino said, bringing teams in gives all of the Barrow hockey players a chance to play another team.
"Not every kid that plays hockey from Barrow can go on a trip out," Serino said. "When teams come up here they all get playing time. That's why I like bringing teams up more than anything else."
While the hockey season recently came to a close as summer sun made quick work of the ice, Serino is already planning more host opportunities. A youth team from Homer flew up to Barrow last year, a trip he hopes to organize again in the near future.
The 14 and under team made a big trip this spring, traveling all the way to Chicago to participate in a February President's Day Tournament.
"(They) played hard in Chicago," said City of Barrow Recreation Director Mike Mason, "but were unable to come up with a win against formidable competition with more experience and skill. The trip was a success based on the exposure and experience to be in a true hockey town such as Chicago."
Older youth players get a chance to compete on several levels, Mason said.
"The Blizzard also consists of seven players whose ages range from 15 to 18," he said. "They compete in the local adult league at the City of Barrow, Tupikpaq, which is Inupiat for ice rink."
Serino has been coaching hockey in Barrow for five years, and is currently the President of the Barrow Hockey and Curling Association. He's a vital part of the rink activities in Barrow, Mason said.
"He not only coaches but provides much needed upkeep on the rink and all equipment related to the hockey teams," he said. "He is also the primary Zamboni driver for the rink."
These kids are definitely crazy about hockey, Serino said, otherwise they wouldn't be suiting up for practice and games in minus 20 weather.
It's also important to stay active in the off season, Serino said, and he encourages all of his players to keep moving after the ice melts. Many take part in structured summer athletics, he said.
"A lot of them go out of town," Serino said. "And they go to sports camps. Basketball camps, soccer, baseball. A lot of them stay here even and there's basketball gym."
Serino and his kids stay busy playing soccer, softball and baseball, he said, trying to maintain an active routine.
"They stay pretty active," he said "There's a lot of stuff for them to do. Getting out and staying active is a really important part of developing athletes."
He encourages all Barrow youth to consider hoping on a bike or tossing a ball outside whenever they can, rather than staying inside with TVs and computers.
Hannah Heimbuch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.