There are possibilities under Tier 3 that didn’t exactly exist in Tier 2 for Oahu’s youth and high school athletes.
The executive order was officially approved by Gov. David Ige on Thursday morning, 12:01 a.m. The move into a more lenient and flexible tier — for the first time since the pandemic forced closure of schools last March — means organized youth and high school sports have a stronger chance of returning for spring season.
That includes football and girls volleyball, sports that were postponed by the private-school Interscholastic League of Honolulu last fall. Football’s start date was Feb. 22, then pushed back to Mar. 15. Many private schools are back to on-campus learning.
“This is positive progress, not just for sports, but for Oahu businesses especially,” ILH football coordinator and ‘Iolani co-Athletic Director Wendell Look said. “We still have a few more groups to move us in that positive direction in order for ILH sports to occur.”
Forty-five states have played or are scheduled to play football. Hawaii’s public schools postponed fall and winter sports, then cancelled them for good in January. Unlike the ILH, no public school teams are permitted to compete.
If Tier 4 happens on Mar. 25, as Mayor Rick Blangiardi hopes, organized sports would have an open path for the first time in a year. One requirement for Tier 4 is 20 or fewer new cases in a seven-day moving average. There were 16 new cases Wednesday and 24 new cases Thursday on Oahu, lowering the current moving average to 25 with a 1-percent positivity rate.
“We can only move one tier at a time forward,” Blangiardi said in a press conference on Tuesday.
The mayor, who announced the ascent to Tier 3 on Tuesday, also noted that he is willing to ask for a bit of flexibility.
“Because of the circumstances which are most favorable, we’re going to the governor and ask for modifications to Tier 3 so people can play youth sports outside, and all team sports,” Blangiardi said.
For spring sports, which were cancelled just as they got their feet wet in 2020 because of the pandemic, it’s not a 100-percent given. Multiple athletic directors noted that permits for baseball fields, run by Parks and Recreation, are not a lock. The ILH depends on diamonds from Patsy Mink Central Oahu Regional Park to Goeas Field at Koko Head District Park for baseball games. ILH baseball has a start date of Mar. 1.
That may be one of the topics for discussion when the ILH meets on Friday and Monday. Sports deemed higher risk are in the queue for potential return. Football, water polo and judo have players on pins and needles. Girls volleyball is waiting.
“I feel good. California just opened up (football),” Saint Louis junior football and basketball player AJ Bianco said, noting that Oahu’s numbers are much more conducive than those in the Golden State.
The ILH’s top administrators meet on Friday.
“Our ILH heads of school meet tomorrow to presumably decide on what Season 2 sports can be played, played with modifications, delayed, or canceled altogether,” Hawaii Baptist Academy Athletic Director Deren Oshiro said. “For any sports that are canceled at the league level, member schools will have the ability to run individual ‘sport experiences’ like some schools did with basketball.”
Damien Athletic Director and football coach Eddie Klaneski is relatively optimistic.
“We are excited about the move to Tier 3 and the possibility to move to Tier 4 in a month. I think it would help us make better decisions on some of these sports moving forward. We are now awaiting approval for all our Season 2 sports. We should have a pretty good idea of what will be approved by next Monday,” Klaneski said. “Regardless, we are getting prepared for many of these sports as we speak in hopes that things will open up and allow for our teams to play. We are definitely hopeful.”
Meanwhile, individual schools have played on with cancelled sports, as Oshiro referred to. The common thread: all of schools playing against each other are private. On the Big Island, Kamehameha-Hawaii and Hawaii Prep played an exhibition basketball game on Tuesday. On Oahu, Saint Louis has played 11 exhibition basketball games against club teams, but will match up with Punahou on Friday night in its first game with a school squad.
Kamehameha and Hawaii Baptist played a home-and-home boys and girls series over the weekend, believed to be the first basketball games on a school campus in 2020-21 to include COVID-19 testing protocol.
‘Iolani and Kamehameha will have a home-and-home series in girls and boys basketball this weekend, also including testing protocol.
Damien boys and girls basketball teams have played in club mode, spending the past month or so practicing off campus, playing Saint Louis (twice) and other club teams in games and scrimmages.
Damien’s girls team plays at Punahou on Thursday night. Both teams have been tested as part of protocols.