The movement is gaining speed for Safe Sports Hawaii.
Councilmember Andria Tupola revealed on Friday morning that Mayor Rick Blangiardi has made amendments to the existing tier system of restrictions regarding COVID-19.
>> Gyms and fitness facilities will be allowed to open at 25-percent capacity.
>> Indoor group physical activities are allowed with no more than five people.
>> Outdoor group physical activities, a team, up to 10.
The updated guide now includes those amendments and is viewable here.
(Note: The amendments referred to by Councilmember Tupola are not official yet.)
“Our forward progress is already seeing results (with) Mayor Blangiardi’s amendments. People from the community came together to make that happen,” Tupola said during the Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii program on Facebook Live with host Ryan Kalei Tsuji.
Tupola is cautiously optimistic about a return to youth and high school organized sports in the spring, noting growing support from across the islands. The state has not indicated a change for the DOE and high school leagues — spring sports are tentatively still on the table — but Tupola and Chad Owens helped push a resolution (RES21-018 CD1) for unanimous approval by the Honolulu City Council two weeks ago. That is under review by the mayor’s office.
“My hope is that we start and already proceed with what we should already be doing,” Tupola said. “Some people are waiting for the big permission, but do what you need to do with athletes. Mayor Blangiardi announced today that amended Tier 2 is already approved by the governor. The mayor is challenging that status quo, and if we get the green light in march or April, I hope our athletes could be ready.”
Tupola noted that Oregon recently reopened high school contact sports, including football. That means more responsibility for all involved in terms of implementing and administering protocols, she noted.
“They said now we’re doing three times more work than we’ve ever done,” Tupola said. “Everything is written for everyone to follow, including parents.”
Owens agreed that the work is necessary.
“We’ve got guidelines laid out for every single sport, outdoor and indoor,” he said. “If it’s indoor, it’s not a no-go. We’ll have no spectators. Everybody’s jobs got heightened. If you’re an administrator or team mom or team dad, you don’t care about your workload going up. All you care about is to help our kids get out of that mental funk. They’re willing to go up and beyond the call of duty to get the kid back to playing. That’s what I’m getting from everyone I’ve talked to.”
Owens, the former CFL, Hawaii and Roosevelt football player, has been at the tip of the spear as an advocate for safety and organized sports. He has heard from many parents and high-school student-athletes who have struggled with the cancellation of high school sports in public schools.
“It’s time for Hawaii to be the standard. We’ve got to go for it, man. Just go. The community is taking it into their own hands and I haven’t heard of any outbreaks at all,” Owens said, referring to athletes in several sports working out across Oahu. “We want to do it within the (Safe Sports Hawaii) guidelines rather than a free-for-all. The people are frustrated. They’re anxious. Kid are moving away.
“Some (athletes) are moving to Arizona. Moving to Utah. We don’t want our athletes moving away. We want them here, representing Hawaii. That’s where we’re sort of not winning. We want to give them the opportunity.”
Owens trains his son, Moanalua senior Chad Owens Jr., and other athletes on weekends with full protocols in effect. He even brought in a sanitizing mist machine to keep his players clean.
Mental health, he repeated, is an underplayed element in the shutdown of organized sports, which began last March as the pandemic spread. Hawaii, he noted, has one of the highest rates of teen suicide in the nation.
“It’s a sticky subject because safety is everyone’s No. 1 priority, not just athletes, but the real pandemic is the mental health of our children. That’s the truth. I wish I could get my phone and read off the messages I’m getting from high school kids going into a dark place,” he said. “COVID is real, we understand that, but we’re doing everything in our powers, studying the places that are successful and creating Safe Sports Hawaii.”
The circumstances in the islands, where mask-wearing is common, along with the weather, are positive for the return of organized sports, Owens added.
“It’s go time. People are getting antsy, impatient and I just want us to be able to roll this out the right way with the guidelines. It’s time to show some love,” he said.
Owens also responded to questions about the validity of bringing sports back — even though 43 states have played high school sports in the fall or winter.
“I don’t like doubt. I’ve been doubted all my life. One of my sayings is, adversity fuels me. If you’re a parent who would rather err on the side of caution, that’s fine, but the majority want to go. (COVID-19 rates) are actually trending (down) while sports is happening at every single park here and on the outer islands. The green light is ready to go and we need those (Safe Sports Hawaii) guidelines,” he said. “I encourage everyone to continue to be positive, lead by example, understand what your kids are going through athlete or non-athlete. They’re turning more into the phones and getting drawn to things they shouldn’t be drawn to.”