Winter is not coming to the Oahu Interscholastic Association.
Less than three hours after the Hawaii High School Athletic Association canceled state tournaments for “Season 1”, the public-school OIA canceled its entire winter season sports calendar on Saturday. Season 1 includes some fall sports that had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic: air riflery, basketball, bowling, competitive cheer, cross country, paddling, soccer, swimming and diving, and wrestling. Winter is the busiest of the traditional three seasons in prep sports.
On Monday, the private-school Interscholastic League of Honolulu announced the cancellation of five winter sports, but would also move forward with remaining sports with protocols.
The OIA, one of the largest leagues in the nation, went further to secure health and safety. Still, it is bittersweet for senior student-athletes.
“I talked to my kids, especially my seniors, about three weeks ago,” said Pearl City boys basketball coach Lionel Villarmia, who began coaching at the prep level in 1984. “We thought we might have a six- or seven-week season. The league had a lot of proposals. Everybody was there and laid it on the line. I called my captain and told him to rally up the boys. We would have only two weeks of conditioning and tryouts. No fans in the stands. We left it at that.”
By 4 p.m. on Saturday, the emails began to circulate.
“Just tonight, (our athletic director) sent us the email that everything was cancelled. We kind of knew when the ILH cancelled (five sports). We were just waiting on the Department of Health,” Villarmia said. “The other states are doing it. We’re one of only three states not doing it. The West Coast and us. We got our protocols down. It’s sad for the kids. It’s sad for the kids when we drive by the soccer field and they’re playing. The club kids play and we can’t.”
Pearl City girls soccer co-head coach Frank Baumholtz wasn’t surprised by the league’s decision.
“Definitely disappointed, but because of the other sports being cancelled, it is probably best to go with the flow until there is a major decision is made on the kids getting back into school,” said Baumholtz, who was entering his 33rd season as a coach at the high school level.
He has a message for his Chargers.
“Stay positive, especially the seniors that are going to college. They want to play in sports. They’ve just got to try and be ready to make that team in college. Don’t get out of shape,” he said. “You’re talking about a year of not playing.”
The ILH’s move to keep some sports alive this winter doesn’t correlate with other leagues.
“It’s the way it is and the OIA makes the rules and we have to abide by them. Whatever the other leagues are doing, the OIA is not going to care. They’re going to do what is best,” Baumholtz said.
Villarmia is worried about some of his players.
“I just wonder what’s going to happen to the kids who need sports to get grades. For public schools, that’s for real. A couple of my seniors, they they think it’s a joke. They get up 9:30 a.m. and their classes are done by 11:30. Do you think they’re studying? It’s going down, the GPA and all that,” he said.
He also has a theory about why the league came to a decision on the same day that Mayor-Elect Rick Blangiardi was sworn in.
“Maybe they made the decision before the new major gets in,” he said. “I know (Blangiardi) likes sports.”