ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Justin Re had already been a large part of the success of the BK Selects hockey program, but he wasn’t satisfied.
Convinced he could do more, Re approached VP of Hockey Paul Colontino about an expanded role, beyond what he was already doing as the BK Selects’ Head Strength and Conditioning Coach since the program’s inception several years ago.
As it happened, Bishop Kearney was hoping to devote more time and energy to one particular aspect during the 2022-23 hockey season: Residential life.
With school leadership realizing the importance of making the BK student-athlete experience as complete as possible, Re was asked to be the new Director of Residential Life.
“I’m a detail-oriented person so we felt this was a great fit,” Re said. “I’m familiar with the BK facilities, plus I already have great relationships established with BK administrators, Selects staff and students.”
For Colontino, who enters his second season in charge of BK Selects, it’s comforting to have someone taking the reins of res life who’s already intimately familiar with the BK experience.
“Justin brings a wealth of knowledge to BK in a variety of areas,” Colontino said. “As a former student at BK he understands what the students are going through and what it’s like to be at BK.
“His passion for BK and the growth and development of the residential life department is immeasurable. We couldn’t be more excited to have Justin leading it.”
Re — who will continue to perform his strength and conditioning duties with the 19U and 16U girls teams — has already dug into what can be done to enhance the res life activities for BK Selects.
Among those ideas: Regular non-hockey recreational programming, dedicated communal gathering places and, in general, a more college-like experience.
With the students’ return to campus imminent, Re’s gears are turning in terms of facilities, especially. A self-professed proponent of “upgrades and improvements,” Re is keeping an open mind regarding what BK might pursue in order to flesh out its brick-and-mortar offerings.
Already, there are several projects near completion. The girls’ dormitory is in the midst of a significant renovation to the dining hall. The boys’ common area is getting upgraded. Both living areas are getting fresh coats of paint.
Also, on the hockey side, two new video rooms have been created, and the varsity weight room is getting a “huge” update, per Re.
“From the facilities to the staff, I want to make every aspect of the upcoming year better than the year prior,” Re said. “We’re also working to create non-hockey related gathering areas, like a student union, and study areas.
“I think a successful res-life experience involves balance,” Re continued. “These student athletes are playing at such an advanced level with high expectations that it can be hard to remember that they are still kids. They need time to unwind, decompress, build relationships, and most importantly, have fun.”
Those thoughts were echoed by residential hall monitor and hockey operations coordinator Mia Commendatore, now entering her second academic year at Bishop Kearney. From her observation, she said that extra attention should be paid toward the students’ every-day routines, so they can be grounded regardless of how the last game or exam went.
“Hockey and academics are always on the forefront,” she said, “however, I find it very important to give them time and space to be kids. Boarding away from home isn’t a traditional high school concept for most kids.”
That balanced approach also applies to Re’s mentality as he prepares for Season 1 in his new job. He said he knows he’ll have to adapt to changing situations and be flexible to what he’s seeing when the student-athletes are away from the ice.
“My first year in res life will be a challenging one for sure,” Re said. “I won’t pretend to have all the answers but I’ll work with my team to find the solution if I don’t.
“I will do my best to make sure each student athlete has a safe and fun experience. Much like my strength and conditioning sessions, safety is the number one priority, but I want the athletes to look forward to training sessions, so I’ll take a similar approach in res life. I want the returners to look forward to coming back to BK.”
The way Re sees it, his efforts can take advantage of the best of both worlds: The established education brand of Bishop Kearney High School, plus the relative freshness of the already-successful Selects program.
“The BK Selects program is still young, so we are able to mold and shape the program how we see fit,” Re said. “The teachers have embraced the Selects program and want (the student-athletes) to be successful both on and off the ice, (and) the BK administration has been very accommodating with what the Selects program is trying to accomplish.”
In that grander scope, Re’s assignment is one part of the holistic push toward making BK Selects a nurturing environment, one that inspires the very best out of the young people who choose to join the family.
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