A measure to open organized youth sports will be on the ledger Wednesday morning at the Honolulu City Council.
Safe Sports Hawaii, formerly known as Safe Sports 808, Resolution 21-18 CD1 will be up for vote on adoption and final passage during the meeting. It will be streamed on the Council’s website under the “Hearings” tab.
The resolution, spearheaded by Councilmember Andria Tupola and former Hawaii and CFL standout Chad Owens, was previously passed unanimously after being heard in the Committee on Executive Matters and Legal Affairs.
“We have to give the kids some hope. We all know that safety is the No. 1 priority. With all of us as a group and team, Andria and Chad really took the lead on this, to show the government these are the guidelines that worked in other states, and these are the protocols for each sport,” said Safe Sports Hawaii co-founder Jason Chai Wilson said. “If they pass it and approve it, then it gets presented to each mayor.”
The sight of athletes across the islands working out at parks without masks on is something that needs to change, added Wilson, a former Kohala coach and athlete. If the resolution passes, the process on the fields and in Honolulu Hale will be gradual.
“The mayor and his team will make adjustments as they see fit, but we have to have the discipline as coaches to make this work with masks and protocols,” Wilson said. “I believe (Honolulu) Mayor (Rick) Blangiardi and (Hawaii Island) Mayor (Mitch) Roth know it’s important. Otherwise, private organizations will do private sports on their own property like they’ve done in California. We want this at county parks so we can regulate it more. Creating that safe, controlled environment is the key. We have to accept what it is and adjust.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in March of 2020, no high school sports have been played by the state’s five leagues. On Oahu, youth leagues are not officially permitted to play. On the Big Island, parks are still closed unless groups obtain a permit.
Safe Sports Hawaii has gained momentum quickly since forming a few weeks ago. Owens brought in a sanitizing misting machine for the athletes he coaches. The hope is that this experimental stage can stimulate a comfort level with every protocol required.
High school football in the state’s five leagues was postponed until spring of 2021, but was ultimately cancelled by every league but the private-school Interscholastic League of Honolulu. Efforts by Safe Sports Hawaii and Mayor Blangiardi could bring youth sports leagues back — if the tier system is adjusted.
Longtime Saint Louis intermediate and All Blacks Crusaders football coach Frank Lacaden is also a first responder.
“I think the resolution is going to end up passing. Everybody’s ready. It’s 10 months, a super long time. We had kids calling me totally depressed, but we actually held out (during the lockdowns),” Lacaden said. “But no one ever expected it to be this long. When (the City and County) came out with the tier thing, uh oh, football may never happen. My older players, they said, ‘I can’t deal with it anymore.’ Virtual school. Basically a prisoner in their own home, nowhere to go. There’s only so much running around in a park and going to the weight room that they can take.”
Lacaden’s team wears masks in a maximum protocol setting.
“We hold these pod practices and get these guys out.
Wilson sees a continuation of island student-athletes moving to the mainland.
“There’s a bunch from Oahu, a boy from Kauai, a couple from Maui and a couple of Big Island boys planning to move to the mainland. A couple are baseball players, but a lot of them are football and basketball,” he said. “They’re being proactive instead of waiting and then the government says no. Maybe they’re just working on plans, just in case. But it’s probably 10 kids, from what I heard.”
In 2020, there were several football players, including all-state girls basketball player Leiah Naeata, who moved from Oahu and Maui to Utah, Idaho and Nevada.
“A lot of the kids heard about that and they regretted not going,” Wilson added. “These kids know they don’t want to miss out.”