New Kahuku football coach Tata is big on grades

The day he was announced as Kahuku's new football coach, Vavae Tata, right, paid a visit to Kahuku football legend Junior Ah You, who starred at Arizona State and in the CFL and is in the CFL's Hall of Fame. / Courtesy photo.
The day he was announced as Kahuku’s new football coach, Vavae Tata, right, paid a visit to Kahuku football legend Junior Ah You, who starred at Arizona State and in the CFL and is in the CFL’s Hall of Fame. / Courtesy photo.

New Kahuku football coach Vavae Tata has an unmistakably deep voice, a nice fit for a leader of young men.

Almost as soon as he got to the school’s campus after being hired late last month, Tata began developing the boys he recently inherited from outgoing Red Raiders coach Lee Leslie.

And we’re not talking about on the field. With Tata, academics come first. During a 15-minute phone conversation on Wednesday, whatever topic came up, it nearly always circled back to what’s the most important thing on Tata’s agenda: schoolwork.

“Academics is vital,” he said. “Sometimes it’s overlooked by coaches, when it’s actually the most important piece. Football has an expiration date. It’s really all about what comes after and what you do with your education.”

After school for a few hours every day at study hall, Tata has been working with the Kahuku football players.

“We can’t afford to have players academically ineligible in the fall, and so we’re working on it now. We’re making strides, but still have a long way to go. We want them to finish this fourth quarter strong.”

Tata is finalizing his staff and plans to announce it before the start of spring football practice.

For Kahuku football fans wondering if there will be changes to the Red Raiders style, the new coach gave an indication of what type of offense and defense he’ll be running.

“We will be a mini Stanford,” he said. “Everything Stanford does on offense and defense is what we’ll be doing. That will be our DNA and our branding.”

Simply put, the Cardinal are a power football team on offense, with an attacking, old-school defense. So, it’s a good bet that even with a bit of a makeover, old-fashioned Kahuku football — the hard-nosed brand that has always been there — won’t be disappearing.

One thing Tata would like to do in the long-term is establish synergy between the JV and varsity teams. The idea came from his days as a Saint Louis School defensive end under coach Cal Lee.

“There wasn’t any drop off when the JV players came up to varsity,” Tata said about the Crusaders teams he remembers. “The varsity and JV had the same system and the same language and the same type of coaching, and there was so much continuity. The JV teams won championships and the varsity teams won championships. Cal surrounded himself with a great staff and created a winning program.”

Tata, who was a standout defensive end for UCLA in the 1990s, spoke highly about some of the college coaches who have been influential in his life. He feels fortunate to have been on the staffs at San Jose State under Mike MacIntyre, Stanford under David Shaw and Vanderbilt under Derek Mason. He calls them “great leaders of men.”

Tata is expected to have many outstanding returnees from last season’s 9-3 Red Raiders team that made it to the state semifinals, including defensive backs Keala Santiago and Hirkley Latu and running back Kesi Ah-Hoy.

“I’m blessed. I get to do what I’m passionate about, coach football,” said Tata, who grew up in Palolo and Kalihi. “I get to reach out and show them that there’s a huge world out there and that they can make it.

“If someone from Mayor Wright housing, Building 29-A, can make it, why can’t you?”


  1. Education First May 8, 2015 7:08 am

    It’s great to hear the new coach will stress academics over football over there. That is the way it should be. I love the coach’s quote that “Football has an expiration date.” That is so true. Unfortunately, based on data, many families do not share this philosophy. I applaud Coach Tata for focusing on the books. Winning is nice, but grades are much more important. Last time I checked, state titles do not pay the bills.

  2. red x May 8, 2015 9:17 am

    @education first. Everybody knows education comes first regardless football…Duuhh!!

  3. Polo May 8, 2015 9:44 am

    @education first, enough from you already, you’re more of a downer. We all know education is the key. So enough of your over there remarks. .You FWAM!

  4. Education First May 8, 2015 11:05 am

    @ red x, if that was true why did so many parents come to the field when Coach Torres was first hired to voice their anger and concerns? Why don’t these same parents show the same passion towards the teachers in the classroom? When new teachers are hired yearly, I rarely hear of a hoard of parents waiting outside the room. Data, actions, and culture out there do not support your comment.

  5. rrfl May 8, 2015 11:52 am

    i think we should just leave education first alone. it seems like he or she loves to do this. Your view is well taken. Maybe you should try getting out of the library every now and then and smell the fresh air.

    Go Big Red. Can’t wait to see our new team!!!

  6. red x May 8, 2015 12:23 pm

    @education first. Reggie Torres was my coach and he’s always been about getting education more than anything. It wasn’t only a few parents that disagree with his ways.

  7. Recruiter808 May 8, 2015 3:50 pm

    Can you please share some of this data that you have concerning the Families out in Kahuku and their view on education. You stated “Unfortunately, based on data, many families do not share this philosophy.” Can you please share this data so that others may learn from it or are you just full of $#!t and pulling this data from your @$$.

  8. RR4L!! May 8, 2015 3:53 pm

    Mini Stanford, I like it. It will be nice having the kids on JV and Varsity on the same system too. Also, why stop there. Lets have that same synergy with Jr Prep Big Boys and Pop Warner too. If all of the coaches, at all levels at Kahuku, are using the same systems, language, and coaching methods, imagine how seasoned and focused the kids will be when the get to Vars. Add to that the renewed emphasis on the classroom. Excited for the future of the Red Raiders.

  9. Pink Sushi May 8, 2015 4:04 pm

    Education First, football does indeed have an expiration date. But what does not have an expiration date is the positive name recognition you make in the community by playing big-time sports for the commiunity and/or state of Hawaii. That positive name recognition you make translates to good paying jobs in the community. So many ex-UH football players now work as stevedores, Halawa prison guard, policeman, firemen…..
    I don’t know what just playing football for Kahuku does for a person’s career. Tell me this, apparently Reggie Torres has a higher than other OIA schools minimum GPA to be able to play football at Kahuku Tell me one person that made a difference for.
    What also does not have an expiration date is the lifelong memories and friends made by playing football for Kahuku. That same feeling for the Kahuku community also translates to better health for those people and better production at work.
    Got plenty people with college degrees working as janitors or baristas. A college degree doesn’t guarantee anyone a job. It just gets you an interview.

  10. Concerned May 8, 2015 5:05 pm

    How can he do anything when he hasn’t even passed the background check yet?

  11. Education First May 9, 2015 10:33 am

    @ Recruiter808, here is their STRIVE HI results listed below. As you can tell their math scores are abysmal. The reading isn’t horrible, but it’s nothing to brad about. The science scores are embarrassing. The ACT scores are alarming. And the rate that goes to college seems quite low to me. Would you care to defend these scores? Unlike you I make comments on scientific data.

    STRIVE HI results:
    Math Proficiency: 44%
    Reading Proficiency: 70%
    Science Proficiency: 21%
    11th Grade ACT: 28%
    College Going Rate: 61%

    Also, based on the last published School Status and Improvement Record, here are some other stats for you.

    Kahuku’s average daily attendance is 91.7%. The State Standard is 95% which shows they are below the standard. 7.5% of of their students drop out of school before their graduate.

    For their 2012-2013 Hawaii State Assessment Kahuku was noticeably lower in reading, math, and Science than the state average. (Reading: 51% vs. 69%; Math: 26% vs. 46%; Science: 16% vs. 24%).

    108 students were suspended during the 2012-2013 school year for offenses ranging from: Class A – Burglary, Robbery, or Sales of a Dangerous Drugs (57 students)
    Class B – Disorderly Conduct, Trespassing (87 students)
    Class C – Class Cutting, Insubordination, Smoking (10 students)
    Class D – Contraband (2 students)
    As you can tell from the numbers above, some kids were multiple offenders for various offenses.

    Based on the last reported SQS (School Quality Survey) given to the student body, some data is alarming:
    Student Safety & Well-Being: 69.9% vs. 75.3% (state average). This shows that more Kahuku students feel unsafe versus other school.

    Is this enough data for you, @Recruiter808?

    My data is from the STRIVEHI & websites in case you want to authenticate my data and research.

  12. Education First May 9, 2015 10:38 am

    @Pink Sushi, I have much admiration for Coach Torres. I recall Coach Torres taking a stand when he was first hired. He mentioned things such as life lessons, holding students accountable for academics, and building character. This is the kind of coach we should all want. Yet at that same time, there were parents showing up at practice, questioning the hiring, and so forth. And we all know that not all of these people were being “professional” about being heard.

    I agree that having a kid go to college or the NFL can have a positive lasting effect on the keiki and community. But, how many kids really take that route?

    I bet if you did a survey, the more practical route ti improve quality of life financially would be to take the academic route. That is do well in school, go to college, and then possibly post-graduate school. Even if finances are an obstacle, going to a community college, then to UH, and then to post-graduate school is definitely an option for any kid in Hawaii.

    With grants and scholarships for minorities, and also student loans, this is the safe play in my opinion.

  13. Recruiter808 May 9, 2015 4:30 pm

    STRIVE HI results:
    Math Proficiency: 44% up from 39%
    Reading Proficiency: 70% up from 60%
    Science Proficiency: 21% up from 20%
    11th Grade ACT: 28% down from 33%
    College Going Rate: 61% up from 50%

    Looks like the students at Kahuku High School have improved a lot during the 2013-2014 school year. All accept the 11th grade ACT scores have improved. I asked you for some data to support your statement that Families out in Kahuku don’t care much about education and you post half @$$ information about Strive HI scores. The scores indicate that the kids out in Kahuku are moving in the right direction which is UP. All the scores are improving and will continue to improve. There is no data to support your dumb claim that families don’t put education first. The only Idiot on here that does not place education 1st is you. So take your half @$$ data and go try impress the next guy.

  14. 008 May 9, 2015 5:44 pm

    Enough talk education first! Just do your talking by helping, put your help where your mouth is. Stop criticizing and help!! Just shut up already!!!

  15. adobo May 9, 2015 5:50 pm

    Had my doubts when Tata was announced as HC. SL brings back the Lee’s but Kahuku goes out of state again? Would have liked to see Beatty given a chance or Torres brought back. Good move by Tata addressing academics. It’s late in the school year so place that thought in to the team’s mind for the summer. Power football? That’s Kahuku’s game. Continuity from JV to Varsity, everyone says this but Kahuku has the player resources to do it. I’m hoping he can implement some of his positive past player, coaching, and life experiences to the team and the school. Looking forward to the Red Raider’s and Crusader’s teams next year and how they do against Mililani and Punahou.

  16. Education First May 9, 2015 8:24 pm

    @Recruiter808, First of all the two test are not the same. The Department of Education changed the State Assessment being used. So to say they are making improvements when the mode of tests have changed is both ignorant and naive. Do you do any research of your own? Or do you just make asinine generalizations based on your attempt at having common sense?

    I also notice that you fail to comment of the amount of kids suspended and the student survey showing results that the students there feel more unsafe than the state average.

    I love how you disregard those comments. I guess it’s hard to comment when you know you are wrong and cannot come up with anything. The FACT that you choose to ignore those comments tell the general public that you are UNABLE to contradict it.

    Instead you have to resort to name calling and foul language. I show data, you run your lip. It’s clear who is academic and who skipped class.

    How is the information Half anything? The DOE put much emphasis and money into the information I provided.

    It’s you half-wit mentality that is able to understand it and figure out it’s objective data.

    Obviously you haven’t taken schooling too seriously and I am confident that you are one of the statistics that either got suspended, expelled, or didn’t graduate.


  17. Sports Fan May 9, 2015 8:27 pm

    Recruiter808 if those scores seem positive to you then you have a really low bar for the kids our there. I agree with Education First that the scores are very bad. I also agree that maybe you should stop commenting.

  18. Recruiter808 May 9, 2015 10:43 pm

    No $#!t the scores are low Sherlock but they also show improvement. That means the kids care about their education and are doing better. If they didn’t the scores would be going down, uh duhhhh…. However, you posted that YOU HAD DATA SHOWING THE FAMILIES dont care about making education a priority. So where is it? Where is the data and survey you conducted or gathered that shows that the FAMILIES in the KAHUKU AREA do not place education first?

  19. Recruiter808 May 9, 2015 10:56 pm

    I too agree SportsFan that you and EducationSometimes need to get a room.

  20. Pink Sushi May 10, 2015 3:15 am

    @Education First
    OK, tell me this. Let’s say the Kahuku student body gets its scores up equal to Pearl City. How is that going to make a difference? A high school diploma does nothing for a person. I want to know one player who was held out of games by Reggie Torres for low grades, that it made a difference for.

  21. Red Raider May 10, 2015 11:33 am

    Recruiter 808 please stop. You are making the people who live in this area sound ignorant and plain rude. This is a public forum that I bet children have access to. We do not teach our kids to speak like you. I agree that the scores are low and I wish that the community would rally around the teachers in the classroom. Football, in additional to all activities (music, dance, art, etc) are just as important ass each other. The scores are black and white. It need to get better fast for our keiki to have a chance. I don’t understand, Recruiter 808 how name calling and swearing will help improve this. If anything you are embarrassing yourself and making us look foolish. Please stop.

  22. rrfl May 11, 2015 8:55 am

    @education first. We all know that education does come first. I don’t think we have ever disagreed with that. What I don’t understand is your strong hatred against kahuku and this community. Is this a problem you have with just kahuku school? Are there other schools out there that also needs help and maybe you can channel your anger to? Do you need a hug?

    I’m sure there are other schools out there that would love to see their data from you.

  23. red x May 11, 2015 4:19 pm

    Education first is jealous that we can win more state titles and is going find whatever reason to bring our school down.

  24. Recruiter808 May 11, 2015 8:25 pm

    RedRaider if anything you are embarrassing yourself by not checking your use of grammer before you post. Ass is a body part not a conjunction word. Maybe that clown Education 1st is right.

  25. Red Raider May 11, 2015 9:32 pm

    I am sorry I didn’t proofread my work. But you are an embarrassment to our community. I hope you are not from Kahuku/Laie. You point fingers instead of accepting accountability. You are not a role model. We are lucky that Coach Tata isn’t looking at hiring you. Our program and school would be in shambles. I feel for your mother.

  26. Recruiter808 May 12, 2015 8:02 am

    According to the clown your defending your school and program are already in shambles. Im not from your community but i take offense when someone comes on here and makes false claims against families period! Don’t feel sorry for my mom rather feel sorry for your children because from what Education 1st is saying maybe education is last on YOUR LIST OF PRIORITIES.

  27. rrfl May 12, 2015 8:08 am

    speaking of GRAMMAR.
    it’s not grammer


  28. An Observer May 12, 2015 10:56 am

    To Recruiter808 I take offense when someone hides behind a computer and acts tough. You are quite the hidden “tough guy” as they call it. To RRFL, I am literally laughing after you wrote your remark. TOUCHE.

  29. Education First May 12, 2015 12:19 pm

    False Claims? Last time I checked I offered scientific numbers from 2 credible websites. The only thing you offer is nonsense and foolishness. The general public knows that when you cannot debate with objective facts and figures, then one must retort to name calling and bullying. Or in this case, what Recruiter 808 does. Also what do you recruit? Being in charge of your made up team on the Xbox does not make you a “real” recruiter.

  30. rrfl May 12, 2015 12:56 pm

    nice to have education first back. we missed you. how is your day coming along? Well i hope you’re having a good day. why are you so angry all the time. Are you ever happy? It’s a beautiful day today go outside and enjoy the sun.

  31. Recruiter808 May 12, 2015 3:54 pm

    Observer I dont hide behind nothing. You want to talk face to face we can. I will be done with practice at the Park(You know what Park)at 6pm so please feel free to meet me there so we can talk. I apologize to everyone who feels like I am bullying them. I realize how sensitive you guys are. Please feel free to do some pushups and burpee’s. Maybe that might help.

  32. Recruiter808 May 12, 2015 4:03 pm

    Education 1st: I guess i will never get the data you said you had concerning FAMILIES placing sports ahead of education but thats okay.

  33. An Observer May 12, 2015 9:41 pm

    C’mon Recruiter, you are hiding right now. I am quite confident your mother didn’t name you recruiter808. If you weren’t hiding your screen name would be your given name. As for coaching, like I said previously, coaching online on your xbox doesn’t count. And I do not know what virtual make believe park you are referring to. How am I supposed to go to a park when you are at home playing job and dreaming up things? I didn’t know you could incorporate push-ups and burpees into your online gaming? Wow things are really real now with an online subscription.

  34. Recruiter808 May 13, 2015 6:56 am

    Did your Mom name you “An Observer” or is that what you did while the rest of us was busy playing and winning champonships …

  35. Education First May 13, 2015 10:00 am

    Let me guess @ Recruiter808, your name is John Smith?

  36. An Observer May 13, 2015 10:02 am

    C’mon Recruiter808 it does not count to win titles when you play Madden on your Xbox. Please stop hallucinating and pretending that playing Xbox and actually competing in real life are the same thing. As for my name, I am not the one acting like a fake internet tough guy.

    And we all believe that you won a championship (wink wink)

  37. Recruiter808 May 13, 2015 3:02 pm

    I gave you an invitation yesterday to meet up and talk but you never show so I will invite you again. I will be free again after practice at 6pm. Please come down to the Park(You know which one) and we can have a few cups and talk.

  38. An Observer May 13, 2015 3:25 pm

    Like I told you, I don’t have time to meet you and sit on your couch and watch you play your Xbox. You are not going to be at any park since it’s all in your imagination. What would I talk to you about? You have nothing of important or scholarly that would involve anyone. Now if I wanted to learn how to hook up and Xbox then maybe I would meet you. Other than that, nah.

  39. Recruiter808 May 14, 2015 4:28 pm

    Excuses again. Oh well, I will go back to my video games and you go back to your scholarly studies(wink wink). Move out of your parents house already clown…

  40. 008 May 15, 2015 10:39 am

    No @education first his name is Asai (wink wink)lmao! Let’s just move on and help our kids to be the best they can be. Remember live ALOHA!

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