In 2015, Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance teamed with Gridiron Performance Academy teamed up to bring local football players and college coaches from across the nation together at the Maximum Exposure Camp.
The three-day event was a hit, marking the first time in nearly a decade that college coaches had an opportunity to work with players in a clinic format. It also gave recruiters a chance to work directly with prospects, and many scholarship offers arrived for local players immediately after the three-day camp concluded.
The 2016 event kicks off today at T.C. Ching Field on the University of Hawaii campus. Chad Ikei of GPA took some time out today to reflect and share his thoughts on the now-renamed GPA Football College Showcase and the impact it has on recruiting in the islands.
Hawaii Prep World: Aloha Coach Ikei. Training athletes at the youth, prep, college and professional levels has been both a passion and a way of life for you so long. But the GPA Football College Showcase is more than just a clinic. Many college coaches will be there. The preparation time and energy for last year’s camp and this year’s camp must be staggering. How do you (and Rich Miano) manage it all?
Ikei: First and foremost,I love what I do for my career as a sports performance coach so at most times it never seems like work. But there definitely is a lot of work that goes into organizing a huge camp like this and I couldn’t do it without the support of some very special people starting with my wife and family and my partner Rich Miano and his wife and family. We also have a very supportive and loving network of people from our sponsors, website and marketing, all the high school coaches from across the state, University of Hawaii and our mass volunteers who are always there for us every step of the way. It was a bit more hair-raising this year because of the potential NCAA ban on satellite camps that kept us in the dark until the last minute so we really only put this together in about six weeks and so it shows how much support our little island has for their young athletes and how hungry our Hawaii prep football players are to get better, 500-plus athletes in six weeks is amazing.
HPW: The satellite camp issue was a HUGE one for players, parents and their supporters nationwide when the NCAA attempted to ban the events. Some prominent coaches like Jim Harbaugh stood up in favor of the camps while others like Nick Saban continue to oppose. What would you say to Coach Saban?
Ikei: First of all, I’m no where near the level of Coach Nick Saban is, and I have huge respect for him as a coach and understand where he was coming from, but the ban would have really hurt our student athletes here in Hawaii more than anywhere else in the continental U.S. Demographically, we are isolated and economically we are at a disadvantage due to the high cost of travel, lodging, ground transportation and meals. So my words to Coach Saban would be this: “Coach Saban, you have proven time and time again no matter where you go you build a legacy of winning and developing a top program with top players and that will never change. However, you managed to land the top QB in the nation from a little tiny rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in Tua Tagovailoa and his family worked extremely hard to send him on those trips to camps and clinics on the mainland, just imagine how many other prize possessions that are unable to make it out there. Imagine what you could find if you sent your entire coaching staff out to Hawaii next year 2017 GPA Football College Showcase Camp.”
HPW: The camp was incredibly large and organized in 2015. This year’s one seems to be bigger — 500 players. And big-time recruits like Saint Louis QB Tua Tagovailoa are still attending. (Tagovailoa has orally committed to Alabama.) What does that say about the experience these young players had last year?
Ikei: It’s very humbling to see all these top prospects like Tua Tagovailoa and Isaac Slade-Matautia who have already secured so many offers from FBS schools still come out and learn from the coaches to improve their game. To me it shows that our young men are eager to be better and that they appreciate the high level of coaching at to our camp. It’s kind of ironic that this will be our fourth year since Rich and I have put on our GPA Football Camp (third annual college showcase as the first camp there were no pads or college coaches) and both Tua and Isaac have been to all four camps which makes them our first official graduating class of GPA Football. That’s a pretty cool thing to have as we got to watch these 2 young men grow through the year and develop into the top prospects in their designated positions in the nation.
HPW: You’re probably a perfectionist, so is it possible to improve on the experience for the campers?
Ikei: I do my best, but I’m far from perfect. However, we strive to make the experience for all our young athletes as best as possible because this camp is all about the kids. We also try very hard to educate the parents on the necessities of developing a student athlete for the next level. Unfortunately there will always be someone who walks away disappointed and we encourage them to give us feedback as that’s the only way we can learn and try to correct it so it doesn’t happen again. But in the end we can only hope that everyone comes out healthy and injury free and learn a thing or two that they can take with them to become better people, better students and better athletes.
HPW: What would be your advice to the young players who are attending for the first time? And what are some common mistakes first-time campers make when doing the drills, 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s and, most importantly, when meeting college coaches for the first time?
Ikei: My advice to young players attending for their first time is to keep their eyes and ears open, observe as much as they can and ask questions if they are unsure. This camp can be overwhelming for newbies, but if they understand that they are there to learn and not worry about who’s bigger, faster and stronger. Once we move to the competitive periods like 1s/7s the players are usually group according to experience level to avoid an experienced senior going up against a first-time freshman.
The most common mistake I find with the competitive periods are athletes not being confident in taking reps and standing in the back of the line. Every coach will encourage each player to step up and take reps, but you see it all the time when a player may lack a little self-confidence and hesitate and then someone else will step up. We are limited on time and coaches won’t wait long for a player to step up, so if an athlete doesn’t jump up when is time comes the next man up will take his spot and that’s something I address at the beginning of every camp.
Confidence is what shows when athletes walk up and introduce themselves to the coaches. Most of the time the coaches will not remember everyone, but I encourage each athlete to introduce themselves with eye contact, a firm handshake and state who they are, their position and school, then a simple appreciation message thanking the coach for coming to hawaii and providing an opportunity for himself and the rest of the athletes in attendance. It shows respect that our culture here in the islands take pride in.
HPW: What is your ultimate vision when all the dots are connected between your training of athletes, the Showcase and beyond?
Ikei: EDUCATION and OPPORTUNITIES. Whether it be an FBS offer or a Junior College offer, developing self-confidence and learning the life skills we teach at these camps on becoming a better individual and how to handle themselves as “gentleman.” Our goal is not about getting a college scholarship, but rather an opportunity to continue their education and become contributing members in our society that can pay it forward to others. Yes this is a football camp, but football has an expiration date and changing lives doesn’t.
HPW: Thank you, Coach Ikei.