Twenty years since he first began coaching at his alma mater, Randall Okimoto has proven to be a speak softly kind of guy.
That’s always intriguing considering he was a record-setting running back at Farrington who went on to play at the University of Hawaii, where he earned his degree.
“I knew from the start of my college career I wanted to be an educator. And the only place I wanted to be at that time was here at Farrington High School because this is home,” Okimoto wrote in a text. “This is home and a place that I was most familiar and comfortable with at the time.”
Okimoto has been a fixture for the Governors, and as their beautiful new field and its majestic “G” logo are being installed, momentum is a wave rushing forward in Bleed Maroon land. But reality always seems to strike when they least expect it. Last week, Okimoto wanted to chat about the current state of working conditions for head football coaches. But the life of football player Wesley Sula was taken tragically. Horrifically. Farrington’s faculty mobilized in crisis-management mode. Interviews with high school sportswriters would have to wait, understandably.
The school went into mourning. A candlelight vigil drew Governors by the hundreds. For a school that seems constantly under siege — there was an attack by a few adults on students during an incident last year, and in 2013, football player Dayne Ortiz went missing off the North Shore as he spent a day off with family — there is unity. The Govs know it well. Pain. Prayer. More pain. More prayer.
And underneath it all, the faculty provides support. When Okimoto says some things could stand to change, it’s not about his love for the kids of Kalihi or his choice of profession. What head football coaches on campus really need, he says, is a little bit of mercy.
See the story on Okimoto’s informal proposal here in Tuesday’s Star-Advertiser.
Okimoto’s initial comment about working conditions for head football coaches was e-mailed and texted to various colleagues earlier in the week. From Waianae to Aiea to Leilehua to Kahuku, many of his peers chimed in via e-mail, text or by phone. Some did not respond. Most echoed his sentiments fully.
Vavae Tata, Kahuku football coach
I agree with coach Okimoto. I believe we have to look at ourselves as teachers first; coach second. We are given the responsibility to foster and teach our student athletes to be Limitless. Equip our student athletes with life lessons that will produce great citizens, husbands, and fathers. So yes, HC must be recognized as admins. HC not only make an impact on our student athletes as football players but HC are also the uncle or father figure that a lot of our student athletes are missing at home.
As far as HC compensation goes, I firmly believe we will never be able to compete with schools on the mainland. I have colleagues that are HC in the mainland that are making 6 figure salaries. It’ll be a game changer if we could get our HC compensation changed to a base salary compared to the current per diem that HC receive today.
• • • • •
Walter Young, Waianae football coach
I think with the amount of time and responsibilities that comes with a football head coaches position. The schools and the DOE should look into giving the coach a schedule that allows them to do some of these responsibilities on school time since it has a big effect on the school, community and pride. Trying to get student-athletes to the next level by talking to college recruiters, writing letters of recommendations, community service, act/sat, meeting with recruiter, year-round study hall to keep grades up and the list goes on and on.
These are some of the things we do during the season and in the off season. Countless hours away from our families who understands the big picture of helping these student-athletes be successful.
• • • • •
Nolan Tokuda, Leilehua football coach
I totally agree 100 percent. At certain schools they don’t consider that as a responsibility instead they give you the same amount of work as everyone else and then we are left to find time on our own to complete our responsibilities as a head coach. From writing letters of recommendation, double checking on our student athletes eligibility requirements and to promote them to the next level (college education and athletic participation).
In addition when football players get into issues academically or socially who do they contact? Football coach of course. Who do they ask when they security For school events? Football coaches. When the school day ends at 3:30. The rest of the faculty are able to go home when our day is only half done.
We are there at the field from 4-7 p.m. Not to mention locking up the facility, closing the lockerroom monitoring grade checks and study halls. So times 3 hours a day for 6 days. 18 hours a week extra with these student athletes teaching to become better men and leaders for the next generation. Let’s not forget the time we use scouting and breaking down video. Another 5-8 hours a week on our time with my daughter Taytum is sleeping.
Our end of the season stipend as a head coach $3500. Eighteen hours per week times 4 weeks times 10 months of the year. 720 hours Spent divided into $3500. Equals $4.86/hour. That’s not even counting study hall. Video breakdown and scouting. If I add that it would be $4.45. Imagine if they just paid us minimum wage.
During season I go to bed on average around 1 a.m. and wake up at 6. Friday night I get home around 1 a.m. Watch the video of the game we just played so I’m up to 3:30 a.m. Then I review my scout notes for the upcoming opponent so I’m up to 5:15 a.m. We have study hall at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Followed by walk-through, so I get out of there around noon with less than 4 hours of sleep then I go out to scout around 5 p.m. so I get to see my Daughter for 3-4 hours on Saturday then I see her Sunday morning.
(A solution would be) get compensated for the hours. $$ amount of time off. Maybe flex time. Start work at 10 a.m. or free periods. All those things. Compensation first if not then flex.
HPW: Coach Okimoto says (former OIA executive director, Kaimuki athletic director and football coach) Dwight Toyama once told him it adds up to 7 cents per hour.
Sounds about right. And we are the highest paid.
• • • • •
Joseph Hauoli Wong, Kailua football coach
I’m not a staff (faculty) member and even though we’re not compensated who’s going to impact them as much as we do. We reinforce what the teachers are trying to say, and we put in countless hours. We don’t do it for the pay but it would be nice to be compensated.
I like the flexibility I have at my job (at a union). I can leave early on a Friday, but I do work on Saturdays.
• • • • •
Wendell Say, Aiea football coach
I like what Randall says, there is a lot of truth to that but the fact is also that we accepted the job knowing that the responsibilities are many. Coming out of College I never thought I’d be an educator but football gave me the opportunity to get a College degree and I had great high school coaches and college coaches that inspired me. When the chance to be an assistant coach came up in 1980 I jumped at the opportunity to give back to these kids… little did I know how much I would love working with them.
Like Randall said, we sacrifice many hours away from wives and growing family members and the monetary stipend/compensation is minimal. As an educator I am not at the top of my pay scale because we need to take classes to get credit to move up in pay grade. I never had the time to do that because of my time spent coaching. So I am basically an old teacher getting paid a little more than a new teacher.
Finding assistant coaches lately has been very hard. Everyone wants to be on the sideline Friday nights but can’t get a commitment the other six days. I am the only coach on staff, my assistants all work outside of the school so it is tough to keep our coaches informed about each player in school. Even Head Coaches are getting harder to find. Besides coaching year round and conditioning, keeping players interested, checking academics, weightlifting, uniform laundry, and lining the field. No one stays longer than five years anymore.
I am a school counselor and I understand what Randall says as a teacher. As a counselor I am a little more flexible but I have to be available for more meetings. I spent my recess and lunch break in the cafeteria monitoring our kids. I don’t need to but I do it to see our players and the student and make sure that they are behaving.
Our counterparts on the mainland are compensated way more than we are for what we do and I think that any job position whether in school or outside will argue that they are not compensated enough too. So what do we do? Again we accepted what we do and I am committed to giving my all to my players.
• • • • •
OIA athletic director (identity withheld by request)
Honestly, I don’t want to go on record. I’m kind of in agreement with Wendell. I know football is a different animal, but all of us who are or were coaches know you have to put the time in.
As a coach, I would never have thought to ask for more flex time. It’s shocking to hear this, but not absurd. I can understand. If you can’t make the commitment to do both then you might have to choose one (family or head coaching).