Passing the Torch

NYO judge helps encourage the next generation of judges and coaches

A former NYO coach and current judge, Howard Sparrow measures the height of a sealskin ball for one of the NYO kicking events.

A former NYO coach and current judge, Howard Sparrow measures the height of a sealskin ball for one of the NYO kicking events.

Howard Sparrow knows the importance of passing the torch. “I’m considered a veteran judge now,” he chuckled as he described his involvement with the 2016 NYO Games, coming up this week, April 21 – 23, at the UAA Alaska Airlines Center.

“It’s good to see more youthful participants are getting into judging. That’s why I usually judge at JNYO and Anchorage tryouts — it’s a good training ground to teach those younger judges.”

Like a lot of NYO volunteers, Howard’s participation with the Games began early; as an East High School senior, he competed in the Scissor Broad Jump, an event that took advantage of his skills as a cross-country runner. “That’s the beauty of NYO: It’s for all types of athletes,” he explained.

As a coach, first with the Dimond High School team and later for the Anchorage state team, Howard kept an eye on athletes from other sports. “I was always recruiting from the other teams,” said the former CITC Partners for Success teacher. “I was lucky to get two football players to do the Stick Pull, and I watched the wrestling team for Wrist Carry athletes.”

Later, a move to Fairbanks allowed Howard to “start from scratch.”

“There was a small team up there that went to state, but it didn’t have a lot of momentum behind it,” he recalled. He put together a team at Lathrop High School, then later coached at Effie Kokrine Charter School, helping to build a base of support for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District NYO teams — some of which are now coached by the same students Howard himself helped develop.

“It’s a joy as a coach, working with students over the year, watching them grow from seventh grade through their senior year,” Howard described. “Then, to see some of those same students graduate and take over, I take a lot of pride in my athletes who are now coaching.”

“That’s the beauty of NYO: It’s for all types of athletes.” – Howard Sparrow, NYO judge and former coach

Howard, who now works full-time at CITC as a Life Skills Instructor with the Employment Training and Services Department, continues to serve as an NYO judge, those he’s conscious of the need to let younger volunteers learn the ropes so that NYO can continue to thrive for generations to come.

“Being involved in this revitalization of culture, youth empowerment, and commitment to a healthy lifestyle is invigorating,” he said. “I highly recommend volunteering. It feels good to see our youth challenging themselves physically and to help them create a positive, lifelong path to walk.”

Don’t miss out on the action at the 2016 NYO Games, this Thursday through Saturday! For more information, to sign up for the Pilot Bread Recipe Contest, or to check out the schedule of events, visit CITC’s NYO Games page.