(6:55 p.m. Adds comments from Kaimuki football coach David Tautofi.)
(7:45 p.m. Adds comments from Kahuku girls volleyball coach Tuli Peters Tevaga.)
(8:15 p.m. Adds comments from Moanalua girls volleyball coach Alan Cabanting.)
A press release dated Jan. 5 — Tuesday — has included football along with fall and winter sports cancelled by the Oahu Interscholastic Association.
Coaches were informed by administrators about the cancellation of fall and winter sports, but football and girls volleyball had been postponed until spring season, or “Season 2.” On Saturday, shortly after the Hawaii High School Athletic Association announced the cancellation of all winter sports state championships (scheduled for March), OIA winter sports coaches were informed about the cancellation of their seasons.
“It affects the seniors a lot. That’s a tough thing for them,” Moanalua football coach Vince Nihipali said. “As a coach, all you can do is have some kind of contingency plan, what can you do to help these kids with recruiting and contacts? That’s all we can do. If it’s cancelled and we can’t get it reversed, there’s nothing literally we can do. Numbers seem to be rising, so it’s tricky.”
COVID-19 case numbers spiked over the weekend in Hawaii.
Nihipali believes the announcement should have been kept in house, but the information had shown up online on Monday, he said.
“It looks like there’s a date on (the press release) and it was posted prior to the date. I’ve seen stuff on it (online). The impact just in general is big, yeah. We’ll have to see what the superintendent will allow when sports return. Will we be allowed to condition the kids. Who knows, maybe the superintendent will tell us when we can get back and work with the kids in some capacity,” Nihipali said. “Whatever COVID protocols need to be done, if we’re allowed to do that, that’ll be a bonus. Hopefully, a spring season and something to look forward to.”
Kaimuki football coach David Tautofi looks at the example demonstrated across the nation and wonders aloud why Hawaii isn’t willing to test the waters.
“I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed by it. I expected us to do something, understanding the importance of this to these kids. Especially the ones whose lives depend on it and how much sports influences their well-being in the classroom,” Tautofi said. “We have numbers about how many kids are failing since we went to (virtual learning), and I think those numbers aren’t even close.”
Tautofi will talk with his players on Tuesday, if not Monday night.
“I don’t even know what to say to them. I can only pray about this and seek wisdom to somehow use this as another life lesson and give these kids a way to work against adversity. It’s a heartbreak. Koby Moananau is one of the top 10 players in the state and he still hasn’t been offered, and he won’t have his senior season. A lot of kids like him might not get their opportunity. It comes down to priorities.”
Kahuku girls volleyball coach Tuli Peters Tevaga wonders why there was a lack of communication.
“I was hoping that coaches could sit in on these meetings and share our concerns and vouch for our players. I feel like we’ve been following protocols and rules up until now. For me as a coach and especially my seniors, you’re just saying there’s absolutely no way that we could’ve worked something out for them to play, even if it meant empty gyms, testing right before games or anything like that. We weren’t involved in the conversation,” she said.
Peters Tevaga hasn’t had a chance to talk with her team yet.
“We just don’t know how to address our girls. We feel for them. It’s definitely heartbreaking for us, not just as a coaching staff and a program,” she added.
The limitations on coaches in the OIA regarding communication and contact with players, Peters Tevaga noted, was for naught.
“You can’t have contact with the players, no workouts, but you can send them videos of encouragement, to stay positive. Any attempt to try and venture out, I was shut down. I felt like, come on, help us out. We are following everything to the tee, what you told us. The liability, we can’t even suggest a workout because if they get hurt, it’s ‘that’s a workout from my coach so it’s on them,’ so as coaches we can’t ever catch a break,” Peters Tevaga said.
Boys volleyball, a sport that was cancelled along with the rest of spring sports last year, will take the court. Peters Tevaga will try to get something going for her Lady Raiders.
“I know there are some ILH schools pushing for competitive play, still,” she said, referring to non-league, private-school “bubble” concept ideas. “I’m going to try to get some play for my girls. I’m pushing for a chance for our girls to compete. I do understand that the pandemic is real and protocols need to be put in place. It is a hard thing to discuss, I can’t even imagine (administrative) meetings, but the communication should have been better.”
Longtime Moanalua girls and boys volleyball coach Alan Cabanting was speechless for a moment.
“I’m hearing for the first time. I’m shocked right now. I think girls volleyball is one of those sports where you can isolate the teams. They’re playing across the net. You have the opportunity to have safety like they have on the mainland in Nebraska, California, where they’ve had the ability to play the volleyball season. They’ve shown that they’re able to do these seasons,” he said. “Literally, I’m just shocked.”
Cabanting has guided the girls volleyball squad to three OIA titles. Then the season was postponed last fall to the spring of 2021 due to the pandemic, only to be cancelled in early January — two months before spring.
“It’s disappointing, especially for the seniors who had really high hopes for this coming season. I think one of the other things that they weren’t thinking about is there’s so many things being taken away from the kids. If we’re really thinking about them, we can try to salvage this for them,” Cabanting said. “It (is saddening) because you have to talk about each sport and the safety, and certain sports are more able to do that, like air riflery. Yet, they just decided since we’re going to cancel one fall sport, we’ll cancel everything. If you’re really thinking about the kids, this senior group, so much is being taken away from them. I don’t understand why we can’t do it while still prioritizing safety.”
Cabanting noted that Moanalua has students on campus and protocols are being embraced.
“There were no actual new cases. We were sanitizing daily. The kids were wearing masks. The kids were six feet apart. We were able to make it work,” he said.