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Wednesday, January 29, 2003


HIGH SCHOOL REPORT



art
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The staff for Castle's girls softball team includes team manager Pat Berinobis, head coach Jon Berinobis and assistants Joe Berinobis and Jason Berinobis.




All in the family

Castle girls softball coach
Jon Berinobis has a staff that
includes his wife, father and brother


By Jack Danilewicz
Special to the Star-Bulletin

ON late afternoons at the Castle softball field, a relaxed air prevails.

While Knights assistant coach Joe "Pop" Berinobis alternates between observing pitcher Lia Pedrina and talking about his family, it's hard not to pick up on the secret of Castle's success amid the scent of freshly trimmed grass.

Fun, make no mistake, is the enduring theme here, and Pop wouldn't have it any other way.

If anything, the collective mindset at Castle is a reflection of the Knights' coaching staff. Pop's son, Jon, is in his 12th season as Castle's head coach. His youngest son, Jason, is a fellow Knights assistant coach, and Jon's wife, Pat, is the team's manager. Assistant coach Castle Waiolama rounds out the staff. For Jon's first two years, sister Josanna was a member of the staff, but she gave it up in 1994.

Together, they have enjoyed a great run at Castle with four Oahu Interscholastic Association Eastern Division titles -- in '93, '98, 2000 and '02 -- to their credit. In 1998, the year the Berinobises built Castle's field with the help of a handful of handy friends, they led the Knights to the OIA championship.

"It (the field) is like our backyard because there are a lot of memories here," said Jon.

Along the way, they all agree, the family bonds have increased. They all compete in a co-ed softball league in the fall in addition to coaching together most of the year.

"When we used to coach in the outside leagues, we'd see a lot of fathers coaching their kids and wives getting involved, and a lot of times it didn't work out," said Jon. "They'd have a hard time leaving it on the field and eventually one of them would stop. It's good that we can go ahead and continue this, but it takes a lot of trial and error to make it work."

Added Pat: "It's a gift that we all can get along -- especially for this many years because we do it (in) outside (leagues) as well. We have our ups and downs as all coaches do, but I like it. It keeps everybody close, and it keeps the family close. Even Grandma (Julie) gets involved sometimes."

It was Grandpa, of course, who got them all involved.

For 33 years, Pop worked for Matson, retiring in 1992. He played softball throughout those years (at 71, he's still competing in a Park District League on Wednesdays and Fridays) and was the first baseball coach his children knew. Among his personal highlights was coaching Jason's little league team in 1975.

Pop was a member of Castle's first graduating class in 1951 and had been a four-sport letterman there, competing in football, basketball, baseball and track.

"I used to sneak out of baseball practice a couple of times a week so I could run track," he smiled.

On the football field, he was a tailback, operating from the single-wing formation when it was as popular as the spread offense is today. But baseball was his sport -- he competed for Kailua in the Winter Baseball League in the '50s before taking up softball -- and his children came by it naturally.

"My Dad was my role model when I was growing up," said Jon. "I take after him in a lot of ways. I learned a lot just from being around him. He instilled in me the hard work (ethic). The rest, I picked up here and there."

Assembling a staff in 1992 was an easy task for Jon, who had been an assistant at Kalaheo for two years before the Castle job opened up. He had also coached at Roosevelt for a time.

"Actually, before I got the job, it was already decided who was coming -- Pops and my brother Jason," he said. "My wife was automatic, yeah."

Jason was then an assistant baseball coach at Castle, where he had played baseball and football while a student.

"When Jon got the job and asked me, it was hard to say no," says Jason, who coaches the Castle infield. "Truthfully, I didn't (envision them all coaching together), but we all learned from Pop, so we're all on the same page. We coach to have fun and teach the fundamentals of the game. Winning isn't everything."

"I looked up to my brothers as my role models when I was growing up," he continued. "There was no rivalry -- we respected each other. We followed each other's sports. Jon has the last word. He's the head coach. Same thing at home -- because he's older than me."

By the time Jon got the job at Castle, Pop had been a long-time assistant, having been a part of the very first Castle softball team in 1977, which won the school's only state softball title. The two coached against one another when Jon was an assistant at Kalaheo.

"I wondered if he was going to ask me, and then he asked me to be the pitching coach," said Pop, who has another son, Joe, and another daughter, Joanna. "Each coach has their own area, while Jon's the overseer. I enjoy coming out and coaching with them where we can be together and participate together."

An unwritten rule limits softball talk among the family to the field at Castle.

"We leave it on the playing field," said Pop. "At home, it's more of a family atmosphere. We don't talk about what's right or what's wrong (in softball). We hardly talk softball at home."

While Jon says "we're all easy going," patience remains one of his best attributes as a head coach, said Pat.

"He loves teaching the girls, and I wouldn't want to see him give it up," said Pat, who played softball for Pearl City while in high school. "He'll take the time to teach -- even a kid who has never played."

Indeed, among the individual success stories on the Castle team are outfielder Tanya Lee, who had never played the sport until her junior year. Today, Lee "could play for anybody," says Pop.

"Jon never yells at the girls -- and as a staff, they're calm and cool," Pat continues. "We always tell the girls to have fun and that if you love the game, your ability and skills will show. If you're not having fun anymore, then it's time to change sports. Of course, everybody wants to win, but that comes naturally if you're having fun."

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