There was a season, and there will be a season.
When the state put public high school sports on hold on O, there was a collective silent scream of agony for athletes and coaches. Then, the private-school ILH announced its plan to carry on with fall sports. More silent screaming, at least for public-school parents and athletes.
The OIA’s announcement of a new fall sports schedule — girls volleyball begins matches on Oct. 12, football games start on Oct. 15 — makes this strange new world a bit more choppy. Fall sports teams, or football in particular, had already worked through several weeks of preseason, only to come to a halt on Aug. 4. When workouts on campus resume — fingers crossed across the islands — on Sept. 27, it may feel like a second season will begin.
“It’s great to have a season. I’m excited for everyone to have an opportunity to play,” McKinley football coach Kale Ane said. “The schedule looks fine. The changes were not that dramatic. Just looking forward to playing. I know our kid are really looking forward to playing.”
The OIA Open Division final is scheduled for Dec. 10. The OIA Division title game is set for Dec. 11, and the D-II championship game is slated for Dec. 18.
The ongoing pandemic and changes in high school life are a learning process for coaches. Nanakuli football coach Kili Watson appreciates his players more than ever.
“It’s been a trying time. Ultimately, my focus is on our student-athletes. There were some silver linings. Allowing injuries to heal and providing a smoother transition for student-athletes into classrooms, which has seen its fair amount of challenges, as well. The schedule release provides a sliver of hope for us, knowing we are a step closer towards the possibility of a season,” he said.
Discussing life beyond the gridiron has been an eye opener.
“This pandemic has opened doors to more one-on-one, open-ended conversations with student-athletes. I got to learn more about them and, ultimately, gain more mutual respect. There have been some changes to the schedule, but we are just excited for the opportunity to get on the field and provide the best experience for our kids,” Watson said. “They have weathered the storm.”
Another coach who preferred to remain anonymous has questions about the day-to-day, week-to-week implementation of an unprecedented approach to prep sports. The deadline for DOE student-athletes to become vaccinated is Sept. 24.
“I believe this goes across the DOE, we’re not supposed to ask who’s been vaccinated or not. We got the opportunity to play, but we’re running in the dark. We don’t know if we’re going to play from week to week,” the coach said.
Last year, states like Utah set specific limits on new cases of the virus for each team. Utah had a limit of three cases per team, and anything more would result in quarantine for the entire program.
“They said if you’re not vaccinated you have to test. According to what I know, there’s no kind of form out yet if you opt out (of a vaccination) for medical or religious reasons. They don’t even know what they’re going to do on that end of it,” the coach said. “Shouldn’t these guidelines and forms be here? To get a medical exemption I would assume there will be a process. I don’t think I can get an appointment for that tomorrow. How long are we going to wait?”
One administrator noted that the process will continue to be electronic. Forms will be distributed and completed online.