The Interscholastic League of Honolulu has sent out a letter announcing that basketball, bowling, paddling, soccer and wrestling have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league’s letter, dated Dec. 28, 2020, also notes that air riflery, a modified version of competitive cheer (dance routines only), cross country, swimming and diving, and tennis will be played.
“Fall sports were moved to a later date with the hopes that progress in the fight against the pandemic would provide that opportunity. Sadly, as of now, it hasn’t, and officials within the Interscholastic League of Honolulu have continued to look and work for safe opportunities. … ILH athletic administrators have reviewed every sport that was to begin in January and made recommendations to how to best move forward in the new year.”
A lack of available facilities and/or permitting issues due to the pandemic are another reason why bowling and paddling were shut down.
Air riflery, cheer, cross country and swimming and diving are scheduled to begin on Jan. 4.
Damien Athletic Director Eddie Klaneski said the league tried its best to be patient, but the deadline for winter sports is upon it.
“We wouldn’t make it into Tier 4 by the time ‘Season 1’ would start or anytime during that season. The safety of our student-athletes, coaches and families were the main reason behind having to make this crucial and tough decision,” Klaneski said. “This was not something that was taken lightly or not well thought out, but at the end of the day, safety was the No. 1 concern. We are hopeful that we will be able to offer more sports for ‘Season 2’ if we can get the virus more under control.”
Not all coaches saw the letter immediately, but ‘Iolani girls basketball coach Dean Young did.
“We received the letter this afternoon. I’m not surprised, you know? Things haven’t gotten better. I figure if they were going to approve the season they would’ve done it a long time ago,” he said. “We had a meeting today after school. We had our skills practice scheduled anyway at 5 o’clock. We talked about it for half an hour. At that point, nobody wanted to talk about it, so they jumped in the pool.”
The tone was surreal for the Raiders, who have won two Division I state titles in a row. They returned nearly their entire roster this season.
“It was kind of, um, kind of shocked, a lot of disbelief. I think it’s going to take a little time for them to comprehend that it’s over. Some tears. Some tears were shed. It’s hard. This is a really special group, you know? They’ve really touched and inspired a lot of people with their play, their conduct on and off the court. A lot of people were looking forward to seeing them play. There’s going to be a lot of disappointed family, faculty that were really looking forward to watching them play,” Young said.
Many coaches around the state had been optimistic that the ILH would have a chance to play regular-season games because students are on campus and training in individual drills with protocols. Some coaches who hadn’t seen the letter were stunned, but not shocked. Like the ‘Iolani girls basketball team, Maryknoll’s boys had won the last two D-I basketball championships.
“I totally understand where the state is coming from, but it’s disappointing, especially for our seniors. I always tell our players you only get one opportunity and you don’t want to waste it and this has been taken away from them by COVID,” Maryknoll boys basketball coach Kelly Grant said. “I heard something about (the letter) after an ILH (administrators) last week. It was about not being able to meet Tier 4 standards. The ADs felt like it is unrealistic to meet Tier 4. It’s very disappointing. I understand because I live with my father-in-law. He has medical conditions and he’s up there in age, and he can’t get that COVID.”
Young is hoping there will be allowance for one, maybe two games in a protocol-based environment. The chances of a reversal by the ILH and state, he said, are an extreme long shot.
“I think no. Are we able to maybe get a couple of schools together and set up a single game or a home-and-home? I think that’s possible,” he said. “But as far as an ILH season and a championship, I think that’s about zero.”
Mid-Pacific boys basketball coach Robert Shklov wasn’t surprised by the decision, but the finality was painful.
“I’m so sad for the seniors. I’m just really bummed for them. But I will do everything I can to make whatever experience we can provide them a worthwhile one,” he said.
Coach Shklov plans on meeting with his seniors and their families.
“I need the night to digest this decision even though I felt that for awhile that it was the most likely outcome. I’ve been in contact with the entire program since the end of last season. We’ve gone over a lot of different scenarios, workouts to do, life lessons and even gotten program-wide participation in community service initiatives,” he said. “My gut feeling is that health and safety is the No. 1 concern here. Many professionals and administrators from the member schools and league put in a lot of work to arrive at this outcome. I trust that they have the student-athletes’ best interest at heart.”
The ILH letter was signed by board chair Tate Brown, executive director Blane Gaison and ADC president Jeff Meister.
There is no mention of a fall sport that was postponed to spring: football.