The next step for high school sports in Hawaii requires patience.
More patience. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the high school sports calendar is in the decisive hands of the Department of Health. The proposal from the Hawaii High School Athletic Association divides the sports season, from January to May, into two segments.
A “Season I” timetable has basketball, bowling, canoe paddling, competitive cheerleading, cross country, soccer, swimming/diving, junior varsity and intermediate tennis and wrestling beginning in January. Season I will be completed in March.
“Season II”, from March to May, will include baseball, football, golf, judo, kayaking, sailing, softball, varsity tennis, track and field, volleyball and water polo.
So, the HHSAA is waiting as the DOH deliberates. The DOH’s priority is COVID-19 protocols. The state has not opened public high school campuses yet, and 100-percent in-person attendance on campus is required before prep sports are permitted. Many private schools in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu have reopened doors for students.
‘Iolani football coach Wendell Look, who is also the ILH football coordinator, has been part of the effort to get high school sports back in play.
“That’s the best we can hope for at this point. I don’t think we could play any earlier (than January),” he said. “Just be patient. That’s all we can be right now. Be supportive of everyone that’s making decisions for us as a state, the safety of our people as a state. It won’t please everyone, but know that athletic (administrators) want to get our kids back.”
Kamehameha girls volleyball coach Chris Blake sees the alignment of challenges. Girls volleyball, as with football and competitive cheer, were among the fall sports that were postponed to 2021.
“If it happens, it’s awesome. I think it makes the most sense mainly because it coincides with the boys (volleyball) program, although it would be a week (after the boys),” he said. “It makes sense logistically for the officials and the schools. The facilities. It’s a one-time thing and we’ll see where it goes. There are so many variables that have to go right for this to happen. There are also a lot of multiple-sport athletes. Athletes are going to have to make some tough choices. These are extraordinary times and we’ll do whatever we can to make it all work.”
Kahuku football coach Sterling Carvalho feels grateful, though there will be quite busy winter and spring seasons in athletic complexes across the islands.
“That would be the tricky part, trying to share the facilities. The gym and the field, for all the sports, but I think everybody would be accommodating,” he said. “Maybe practices would have to start later, be shorter, so that’ll be good.”
Further delays would fuel more exporting. Several student-athletes, particularly in football, transferred to mainland schools for the fall and winter seasons.
“We want to keep our athletes in Hawaii,” Carvalho said. “We need a light at the end of the tunnel.”
If the plan is approved by the DOH, winter sports will likely have no preseason games and tournaments.
Kahuku boys basketball coach Brandyn Akana has been optimistic.
“Having a regular season, that’s something, right? Hopefully, this COVID’s been around since March and people know how serious it is. People know how to take precautions and protocols. If we’re smart about it, we can have our youth participate in sports and school activities,” he said.
Akana has spent time in Utah watching son Tausili, a Kamehameha student-athlete, play football this fall.
“The athletic program (at Wasatch High School) has done a great job. The state of Utah has spiked, but at the same time, they’ve been able to be smart about and that’s the most important thing,” Akana said. “If you’re sick, you’re not allowed to show up. All the precautions. I’ve been to their football practices. No sharing water bottles. If you’re not on the field, you are required to wear a mask. Coaches wear masks at all times. Spectators at games, social distancing and everyone wears masks. No gathering or hanging out after games.”