Kapaa softball shuts down, ILH benefits

The future plans of at least two teams in two leagues have been impacted by what happened at Kapaa High School.

Last Wednesday, six of Kapaa’s 11 players quit the softball team. The Warriors, who were 0-4 in Kauai Interscholastic Federation play with eight games remaining, then forfeited a doubleheader against Waimea on Saturday and have since shut down for the season.

That is problematic, and the solution is already in process.

>> The KIF is now down to two softball teams, Kauai and Waimea. Because three teams are required for a league to be considered for an automatic (seeded) Division II state-tournament berth, the Hawaii High School Athletic Association has ruled that there will be no automatic berth for the KIF.

>> Also, in the previous formula results, the KIF runner-up was going to meet the Interscholastic League of Honolulu runner-up in a play-in game for a state-tourney berth. Now that the KIF is down to two teams, it will have no chance at a second berth. The ILH runner-up will gain a state berth outright.

The current members of ILH D-II softball are Pac-Five (3-2-1), St. Francis (2-4) and Sacred Hearts (0-6).

“The KIF informed me that Kapaa has dropped out of softball for the remainder of the year,” HHSAA Executive Director Christopher Chun wrote via e-mail on Tuesday morning. “Currently, there is no penalty on a state level for a team that drops the sport after the start of the season, other than the league possibly losing a state berth and/or seeded berth. This has been a HIADA (Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association) issue in the past and has come up in our Board meetings this school year because the late drops dramatically affect other leagues, as well. In other cases, schools have been notified at the last minute that they qualified for states because another league had a team drop. This can often create a hectic, last-minute travel schedule.”

It’s been an unfortunate fall of dominoes for many. The five remaining Kapaa players were left stranded, so to speak, by their teammates. As a full team, the Warriors last played a game on Saturday, Mar. 26. The team, coached by Aulani Kaui, practiced on the following Monday and Tuesday.

But parents asserted their displeasure with the coaching staff, and by Wednesday, the team lost more than half its players.

This affects the two teams battling for supremacy in the KIF. Kauai won the first round and Waimea is making a strong challenge in the second round. With Kapaa’s softball team sidelined, only one of the remaining teams will play in the state tourney.

“I feel bad that not fielding a team is going to affect the (state) berths,” Kapaa Athletic Director Greg Gonsalves said by telephone on Wednesday morning.

The reasons for the revolt aren’t clear, but there are some intriguing background factors that don’t add up at this point.

>> The team was comprised heavily of freshmen, and of the six players who quit, four are ninth graders.

>> Of the five freshmen on the team, four were starters.

>> Word of parents’ complaints regarding the coaching staff’s decisions — Kaui’s husband, Scott Kaui, is an assistant coach — seem to be at the crux of the conflict. The Kauis’ older daughter was a starting pitcher for the team in recent years, and a younger daughter was a pitcher and third baseman for the current team.

Though five Warriors chose not to quit the team, there’s a question now about next year’s squad. Kapaa doesn’t field a JV team due to low numbers. The local feeder program has shown promise, but those players are years away from high school.

Kauai and Waimea, meanwhile, have nearly 20 players on their varsity rosters, as well as JV teams.

While the future of Kapaa softball is in flux, until the players and families of the former players speak out, there’s no way to know why they went to this extreme.

“I am not sure the reasoning why Kapaa can no longer field a team,” Chun wrote. “It would not surprise me, if it was for the reason you described: parental/coaching disputes. We have recognized this as a growing problem and are trying to combat this through parental workshops, coaches education, and a student leadership council. Hopefully, students, parents and coaches realize that ultimately, we are all working toward the same positive outcome for our student-athletes.”

It looks similar in some ways to what happened in Kahuku’s boys basketball program, where the parents of two players complained to the principal, which led to the attempted firing of then-coach Alan Akina. He eventually took his case in court, but was not reinstated. Settling with the plaintiff (Kahuku High School and the two sets of parents involved), the result included a stipulation that he will never apply for the coaching position again.

Before that, Alika Smith guided Kalaheo to two state titles in boys basketball (D-I and D-II), then stepped down after being required to sign a positive coaching-themed contract during the offseason. This came after the parents of two players allegedly complained during the season — even as the Mustangs galloped to a state championship (2015). It turned out to be Smith’s final season.


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