Joshua Yarbrough, a Port Neches native, was part of a championship team that won the Tier II National Championship at The Toyota-USA Disabled Hockey Festival.
But Yarbrough’s time in sled hockey has brought him more than the joys of winning.
Yarbrough was a Marine sergeant and lost both legs to an IED explosion during a 2011 deployment in Afghanistan.
Yarbrough described the emotional draining process of recovery. He was able to get the recommendation to try sled-hockey while he was in San Antonio.
“I thought contact sports were over for me,”He said. “I played golf for a little while. There is a huge difference between hitting a golf ball and hitting someone. It has been very therapeutic.
“At the time, I tried it and played goalie but I wasn’t in a place where I was concerned with that. I just wanted to get my rehab done and leave.”
About three years later, Yarbrough was sitting at his son’s football practice when he had an epiphany.
“I had about an hour and a half to kill and I realized I needed a hobby,”He said. “Hockey seemed like it would be fun. I found a team in Houston and got the contact information online. I was there the next Saturday and every weekend since when they have it.”
Yarbrough stated that he was hooked on the first practice.
“I got put at left wing,”He said. “That is where I played my first season. Then I got moved to defenseman. Now I get to hit people.”
Yarbrough’s team is the Houston Hellhounds, but the team hasn’t played in a while after the non-profit organizer died. Yarbrough was granted a waiver to be able to play with the Knights during the championship run.
Yarbrough said that the team provides friendships as well as the drive to stay fit.
“Having the physical outlet is good,”He said. “It keeps me wanting to improve myself and stay in shape, because otherwise I would not.”
Yarbrough can also share his time on ice with Sean, his 15-year old son who has flat feet surgery.
“At his age, they start pulling away and doing their own thing,”Yarbrough said. “After my injury, a lot of that relationship felt very strained. I have three kids now, but at the time, I only had him. He was 4 when that happened. I played with him all of the time. I had a lot of plans as a father of all of the things I wanted to do. I wanted to coach baseball and teach him all of these things. I can’t show him footwork for football. I can’t show him the footwork to swing a baseball bat. I can’t show him how to step into a throw. That was frustrating and that put a strain on our relationship for a long time. I felt like he was getting the short end of the deal.”
Yarbrough stated that having his son on the team gives them something to bond over.
“We go to practice and I hit him just like everyone else,”He said. “Hopefully, that will make him a better player at the end of the day.”
Yarbrough said that anyone going through similar situations should find an outlet for their emotions by finding some kind of athletic activity.
“If there is a sport you like, they probably have some version of it,”He said.
Those who would like to donate to the Houston Hellhounds can do so by visiting starskaters.org.