It is not quite official yet, but a spring sports regular season is likely in the Oahu Interscholastic Association.
Athletic directors voted for the format on Monday, and schedules are not complete. The vote could be formalized by the league soon. Getting to step one is next.
“We haven’t heard anything final or official. We are all trying to finalize our own schools’ practice plans and work on step one before the next,” McKinley Athletic Director Bob Morikuni said.
The dates for return to conditioning work and, perhaps, scrimmages and preseason games will depend on whether schools are in a blended learning model or not. Schools that are already in a blended model include Kahuku, Moanalua and McKinley.
“For McKinley, we are going to try and have the students physically on campus for athletics on Mar. 22. We are finalizing our workout pods and retraining program, and gather our students’ paper work and rosters. We’ll be working on that until then,” Morikuni said.
Keith Amemiya, the former HHSAA executive director, is the motor behind a fundraising effort to boost the return to spring sports. He was the force behind the Save Our Sports campaign in 2009 that offset a $1.5 million budget cut for high schools.
Hawaii’s public high schools have not played sports since March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The OIA has made a concerted effort to play a spring season in ’21 because of the ’20 cancellation.
Softball, like other spring sports, will have a chance to play regular-season games. It won’t be easy to play the maximum of games with different schools returning at different times.
“Based on the late start, we want to get in as many games as we can, but taking into consideration the time frame we need to get back into condition,” Nanakuli Athletic Director and OIA softball coordinator Andrew Moody said. “With those parameters, we’ll be lucky to get in a full regular season.”
In Iowa, prep baseball is played in the summer. In Arizona several years ago, the baseball season extended past graduation. That scenario is unlikely in Hawaii.
“I think they’re going to run out of time to do anything longer,” Mililani Baseball Coach Mark Hirayama said. “They’re just doing their best to try and get us some games. All the schools are a little bit different depending on the blended (format).”
The OIA regular season in baseball, Hirayama added, may start on Apr. 26. Three weeks of conditioning workouts are required first. Mililani will not be in blended model mode until after spring break (Mar. 15-19).
Radford intends to scrimmage with an ILH school in softball and baseball with all protocols in effect.
“If we need to test before playing an ILH school, then we will do it,” Radford Athletic Director Kelly Sur said.
Sur, the former Rams football coach, expressed disappointment about the length of the league’s process.
“Personally, I believe we waited too long. We are the only state that did not have any start for the three seasons. More than a few states have had five times the infection rate, as well as deaths, and they are done with both fall and winter seasons,” Sur said. “You would think we being educators would follow the science.”
Two states that postponed fall and winter sports, California and Nevada, recently approved the return of football for spring season. California also brought indoor sports back for spring. California’s threshold is 14 new cases daily per 100,000 capita, or 140 per million. On Oahu, the threshold set by the previous City and County administration was roughly 20 for the 1 million residents of Oahu.
New Mayor Rick Blangiardi ushered Oahu into Tier 3 on Feb. 25 and hopes Tier 4 will be effective on Mar. 25 with Gov. David Ige’s approval.
“We started blended learning about a month ago,” Sur noted. “I told the (league) body, we should start working out now. We have the waiver form. 100 percent of our parents wanted their kids back. I’m not trying to say that I’m right, or whatever the superintendent, governor or executive director decide is wrong or right, but we weren’t transparent. To me, that’s a black eye. It’s just sad. There was a time that the OIA stood for something. The OIA was the forerunner. They had the (courage) and they were initiators. It’s real different. The DOE is changing.”
Though few administrators are willing to speak on record about the process, there is a sense of relief. Leilehua Athletic Director Nolan Tokuda is stoked.
“I’m excited for the spring student-athletes. It’s a great opportunity for us to learn the new normal for COVID protocols before next fall season,” he said.
Morikuni utilizes social media as a tool to keep student-athletes at McKinley informed.
“It’s good to have sports come back. Really, though, any progress to return to a better normal is a good thing, sports being one of them,” Morikuni said. “We are happy it’s a step in the right direction. We are going to do our best to make it as safe as possible for our coaches and students, and we have a plan in place. It’s always a good thing to get school back the way it was.”
Oahu’s private-school Interscholastic League of Honolulu is moving ahead with plans for a spring season. The league’s dependence on C&C facilities for baseball and softball is a crucial factor. Permits for usage have not been allotted yet.
Ferd Lewis contributed to this story.