What is the outlook of high school sports for the rest of this year, as the pandemic eases up?
The outlook is extremely positive. Most leagues have approval to play their spring seasons following state Department of Health, Department of Education (DOE) and HHSAA guidelines. The main restrictions that student-athletes will probably have to endure this spring season are wearing face masks at all times and no spectators being allowed to attend any games. All leagues plan to resume full competition in the fall. Interleague and state tournaments likely will resume as well, as most residents will have been vaccinated and the statewide Safe Travels program will no longer be needed. It is too early to determine what lasting restrictions will remain, but we are hopeful that fall 2021 will mark the return of a normal high school athletic calendar.
What has been HHSAA’s role in helping member schools navigate the pandemic?
The HHSAA has helped guide leagues during the pandemic. From the first shutdown in March 2020, the HHSAA did whatever it could to ensure that when safety and health concerns had been met, high schools would be ready to resume sports and athletic competitions. We were the first to draft return-to-play guidelines. We have regularly held meetings to ensure the leagues were all on the same page in regards to establishing safety protocols and being ready to resume once they were allowed to by the state leaders. I have worked with and served on various committees with legislators, health professionals and athletic administrators, trying to get sports back and running as quickly and safely as possible. We have tirelessly drafted multiple versions of calendars and guidelines with the hope that the leagues would be allowed to proceed under state and county restrictions. We have researched and provided information to our state leaders that have contributed and led to the safe resumption of high school sports.
In what ways has the pandemic affected student-athletes?
I cannot imagine what this pandemic has done to the last two classes of students. Sports is only part of the loss that these kids have endured. They have lost proms, graduations and countless experiences of memorable teenager events. Hopefully, it taught them how to adapt. I’ve seen creative ways students have reached out to colleges using social media to essentially recruit themselves. I’ve seen students turn to technology to stay connected the same way we have had to learn as professionals. Probably, the most positive thing I’ve seen is families now have had time for each other. Everyone wasn’t so busy as they were before. As things return to normal, hopefully families can find a greater balance in everyone’s busy lives.
How have schools dealt with the cancellation of team competition and state tournaments? Have they been able to offer alternatives?
Schools have gotten creative in what they could do. They have had to navigate through state, county and DOE restrictions in offering outlets for their students. In addition, they have had to do this while trying to bring students back to in-person learning as a first priority. I think that has created a general understanding in the sports community. Schools have created intramural experiences. They have added athletics to their curriculum. They have even played other schools with their own safety protocols and testing. What is awesome is everyone is sharing best practices and working together to do what they can for their student-athletes.
How did you get involved with the HHSAA?
Like many high school kids, I was fascinated with anything sports-related. This was, believe it or not, my dream job. I actually followed and modeled my professional career around (former HHSAA director) Keith Amemiya’s background with the hopes that one day I would get this job. Because of this, I went to law school. When I became an attorney, I convinced our law firm to volunteer and serve as the pro bono attorneys for the OIA. I familiarized myself with HHSAA’s sponsors and made sure to connect with several of them on a professional level before I got this job. When Keith led the Save Our Sports campaign and the public responded, I knew this was a job that Hawaii was passionate about, and it drove me even more to apply once he stepped down.
I played baseball, soccer and football growing up. I wasn’t very good, but I did make a lot of friends, including coaches and mentors, with whom I still am very close today. My best memory was scoring a touchdown against Punahou in intermediate football. I still love coaching. I started coaching my son in Shetland baseball and never stopped. I still coach my daughter in club softball, and I also coach intermediate baseball in the ILH. It is awesome, because many of the kids I have coached have gone on to play in the state tournament and in college.
Anything you’d like to add?
This pandemic hit me personally more than most. I coach intermediate baseball in the ILH, which has been canceled twice. My son is also a senior at Kaimuki High School, where he was a four-year starter in baseball. Like other spring athletes, he has been affected greatly by this pandemic. I have received a lot of angry phone calls and emails from parents about the canceled state tournaments. And I sympathize with them. I have had to deal with the same questions within my own family. As things have opened up, I’ve done what I can to volunteer at Kaimuki and ‘Iolani so that my children and their classmates don’t miss out on any more memories. I appreciate the work everyone has done to allow my son to create some lasting memories as a senior this coming OIA season.
THE BIO FILE
>> Title: Executive director, Hawaii High School Athletic Association (HHSAA)
>> Previous jobs: Attorney, Lyle S. Hosoda & Associates (2005-2010)
>> Personal background: Born and raised in Kailua; ‘Iolani School, Class of 1992; University of Hawaii and William S. Richardson School of Law graduate.
>> Favorite sport: Baseball.