Walter Young bleeds navy blue and red.
Aside from his journey to Whitworth University (Wash.) from 1998 to ’03, his football life has been all about Waianae and the dream of playing — and coaching — for the high school.
When Seariders athletic director Glenn Tokunaga announced the hiring of Young as the program’s new head coach, it was both intriguing and fitting for longtime fans. For the rest of the world, though, Young is a bit of a mystery, at least until he shares his vision.
Then he sounds like an old-school Searider to the core.
“I feel like hard work, discipline and student-athletes are the key things that we’ll have to these kids. This is where I grew up, so it’s real nice to give back to the community. I appreciate it. I feel we’ll keep the traditions the same. This generation’s a little different, but we can still use the same things we believed then right now,” said Young, who played for Waianae’s 1997 OIA championship team.
After graduating from Waianae in 1998, he played football at Whitworth, and has been a math teacher and assistant coach since ’03. In fact, he is the head of the math department while teaching an Algebra I class.
Over a span of 11 seasons, Young has been an assistant to Daniel Matsumoto, who stepped down last week after 15 seasons as head coach. Young spent the past two seasons as head coach of the junior varsity team.
“I’m old-fashioned. When we ran the JV program, we took it back. Black shoes. White socks. Any tape on your body is white. A lot of these kids understand that if you look like a team, you play as a team. When we went through the system, that’s what the coaches instilled in us. You don’t have to look better than anybody. You look the same,” said Young, who is also the school’s boys track and field coach.
His position coach back in his playing days was Peyton Sarono. Coincidentally, Sarono is also a teacher. Sarono teaches fourth graders at Waianae Elementary School.
The dynasty that Waianae once was under Larry Ginoza, then Harry Mitsui and Leo Taaca — Young played under the latter — was long ago. Yet, ambitions and expectations of the Seariders remain lofty and complex. Over the years, long after Nanakuli-area kids aimed to transfer out and play for the Seariders — and even the Pop Warner Waianae Tigers — the talent pool was siphoned off to an extent. The opening of Kapolei High School led to less imported talent and, actually, some defections from Waianae.
Today, there are players doing a musical-chairs routine between Campbell, Kapolei and other Leeward and Central Oahu schools. Two of Waianae’s running backs transferred to Kapolei before their senior year. And Mililani, which won its first state championship last fall, has been the latest magnet to draw elite players from across the island.
With all the scrutiny and pressure that comes with the post — Tokunaga had conversations with some prominent Waianae alums about their interest, but none were seriously interested — Young says he doesn’t concern himself with all the white noise.
“We believe in Waianae that we need to get these kids not just ready for football, but for life. If we instill these values into them, they’ll come along. That’s why I took the job,” Young said. “We can build positive role models and productive members of society through this job, even though you will be viewed under a microscope. It’s not about me. It’s about these kids, and it’s about what goes on beyond high school.”
As a senior at Waianae in ’97-98, Young was an All-OIA honorable-mention selection, blocking for quarterback Kana Kawai and running back West Keliikipi, both first-team picks. Keliikipi went on to play for the University of Hawaii. He lined up alongside first-team linemen Nahina Tuinei and Mosi Fonoti. Nate Jackson, who also starred for UH later, was a first-team all-league pick at defensive back. Linebacker Winston Keliikipi and defensive lineman Kainoa Evangelista also garnered first-team recognition.
Taaca was named OIA coach of the year.